asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what guidance he has provided to regional councils about the closure of one-teacher and two-teacher schools.
Is it not surprising that a Department which in the past has been reasonably prolific in these matters has given no guidance to regional councils? Is the Minister aware of the intense anger that is felt in certain rural areas of Dumfries and Galloway, where there are considerable threats to these schools? Will he at least give guidance to the regional councils that they should not persist with further closures until structure plans for the regions are available?
I can tell the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend has not received any applications from the regional council involved to close any schools. I understand that the director of education chaired a working party and recommended that the most viable units were three-teacher or four-teacher primary schools. I assure the House that before a school is closed my right hon. Friend takes account of many factors, including the wishes of the parents and social and community reasons for the closure.
Does the Minister accept that not many people agreed with the consultative document that he mentioned? Does he further agree that, in view of the value of the small village school to the rural community, he should give more priority to the improvement of rural schools and so encourage local authorities to keep them open?
I am in a cleft stick. I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman is advocating Conservative Party policy. I took a great deal of stick from the convenor of the Tayside regional education committee for not closing a village school in that region.