School bus changes ‘breaching human rights’

Parents have accused council chiefs of breaching international children’s human rights in a row over school bus routes and are set to take their fight to the United Nations.

Parents are angry over plans to reduce access to free school transport to a number of secondary schools in South Lanarkshire. Picture: TSPL
Parents are angry over plans to reduce access to free school transport to a number of secondary schools in South Lanarkshire. Picture: TSPL

South Lanarkshire Council is proposing to increase the distance for free school transport to the area’s four secondary schools from two miles to three miles.

But parents, who are fighting to stop the changes, have claimed the local authority could be breaching the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child if they go ahead with their plans.

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The parents of pupils from Carluke, Biggar and Lesmahagow high schools, as well as Lanark Grammar, want the council to postpone a planned meeting on 26 August to finalise the cuts so the legal position can be considered.

Julia Marrs, from Kirkfieldbank, who is leading the campaign, said: “I have long believed that the council have a duty of care to ensure walking routes to and from schools are safe and have, with a colleague, Stuart Clark, compiled a risk assessment for the route from Kirkfieldbank to Lanark Grammar School.

“This has been sent to the council with a request to be sent their risk assessment for this and other routes. I await their response.

“I have also been I contact with the Scottish Commissioner for Children and Young People, Tam Baillie, to ask whether the council would be in breach of Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“The commissioner’s office has been very helpful and their reply would suggest that the council are potentially in breach of Article 12 of the convention and two areas of legislation.

I have written to the council to alert them to this information.”

Ms Marrs, along with other parents, is concerned there are too many hazards on the road for a large number of children to be able to walk safely to school.

She added that the protest group would be attending the council meeting planned for 26 August. Article 3 of the convention states: “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”

Article 12, which Ms Marrs also believes the council is breaching, states a child should have the right to express their views in matters affecting them and these views should be given “due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child”.

A spokeswoman for Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People said they do not discuss individual cases, but the office had received several inquiries about school transport across Scotland.

Council executive director of education resources Jim Gilhooly said: “The council is of the view that the consultation was undertaken in line with statutory requirements.

“A letter was received from Mrs Marrs and she can expect to receive a full response.”