Taxpayers fork out £27,000 so MSP's relative can get taxis to dance school
The teenage relative of an MSP has been awarded a £27,000 grant for taxi fares to attend Scotland's national dance school 20 miles from her home.
The teenage relative of an MSP has been awarded a 27,000 grant for taxi fares to attend Scotland's national dance school 20 miles from her home.
John Pentland, Labour MSP for Motherwell and Wishaw, insisted any child was entitled to the help with transport costs. He also serves on North Lanarkshire Council, which approved the handout.
The grant has sparked a political row, with the SNP questioning council spending priorities at a time of widespread cuts.
The teenage girl will be taken from her home in Cleland, Lanarkshire, by taxi to the Dance School of Scotland in Glasgow's Knightswood district, at a cost of 9,120 a year for three years.
Neither the youngster's name nor her relationship to the MSP were revealed in the council minutes that show GTS Taxis won the contract.
SNP councillor John Taggart slammed the award, saying: "We've got be very careful about what we're funding. If the parents are in a position to contribute, then I think they should contribute.
"If it's a child with special needs or any kind of disability, then we would fund them to the end of the earth. But when its something that you would like your son or daughter to do, is there an obligation on the council to actually fund your wishes?
"In North Lanarkshire, there are hundreds of pupils who go to dance classes and these parents pay for that out of their own pockets."
But Labour hit back, insisting any child in North Lanarkshire was entitled to support for transport to meet their educational needs and opportunities.
A spokesman said: "It is disgraceful that SNP councillor John Taggart has singled out this individual child so that she can be identified and used as a political football, especially as nothing improper has happened.
"Such support is available to all youngsters and no-one should be excluded, whatever their background."
Entry to the Dance School of Scotland is by audition, with applications accepted from pupils all over Scotland. It is the country's only fully funded centre of excellence for vocational dance and musical theatre.
The school, which is funded by the Scottish Government, is incorporated into Knightswood Secondary School in the West End of Glasgow. Students not only receive specialist tuition but also take part in the mainstream curriculum.
A spokesman for North Lanarkshire Council said: "The child in question is eligible for transport to and from school. We have merely applied the relevant criteria.
"On the rare occasions that a pupil's needs are best met in a school outwith their usual catchment area, it's right that we ensure they can access that school."The money came out of a budget of 3.7 million to fund transport for pupils who live too far away from their schools to walk there.
Awards have gone to pupils who live in rural locations such as farms, and to provide buses or coaches to take groups of more than 30 pupils to school.
The awards ranged from 7,410 to take one pupil to Chryston High School, to 227,000 to take 190 pupils to Coatbridge High School.
Mr Pentland is on holiday.
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