Attn Newsdesks/ Political Correspondents 

For release Saturday June 3 2017 

SALMOND: TORIES EXPOSED AND IN DISARRAY OVER RURAL SCHOOLS THREAT  

Tory candidate blasted for running scared during election hustings following exposure of his party's threat to rural education in Aberdeenshire.

SNP candidate for Gordon, Alex Salmond, has blasted the Conservative candidate in the General Election for a series of contradictory statements at local hustings following Mr Salmond's exposure of the Tory council administration's threat to rural schooling. 

On Tuesday June 30, at a hustings debate in Huntly, Tory Colin Clark confirmed that the future of rural schooling was under review by his fellow councillors in the Conservative-Liberal council. 

Mr Clark defended the schools review and proceeded to mimic Tory leader Jim Gifford verbatim, saying that "a grown up discussion" was required to deal with the issue. He even claimed that people could be happy if several schools were closed and merged into one. 

However, by the following night at a hustings in Inverurie, Mr Clark's had turned tail completely, claiming that the issue didn't exist and was nothing more than a social media "smear campaign". 

The furore follows comments made by Jim Gifford and his Liberal deputy Peter Argyll on BBC North East radio on 19th May, as well as the former in an interview with The Evening Express. 

During the BBC bulletin, broadcast on May 19, Tory Leader Jim Gifford said "I think there is a big discussion to be had. If you mapped where everyone lives in Aberdeenshire and mapped where the schools are they are not in the right places and that comes at huge cost. 

"We need to have a big grown up discussion about whether schools are in the right place, the right kind of school, the right size of school. [schools] built 150 years ago and trying to deliver a modern curriculum - it is sometimes a challenge"

Mr Salmond, standing up for rural schools, said: 

"It comes as no surprise to me whatsoever that my Tory rival is running scared and twisting and turning over the exposure of his party's threat to rural schools.  After all, he is a Councillor and has already voted with his Tory colleagues this February to CUT the Aberdeenshire education budget by £3.2 million. That cut would have hit classroom assistants, music tuition and special education if it had not been stopped by the SNP.

Just as the Tories have turned tail on their UK manifesto commitments to introduce a "dementia tax" and scrapping the winter fuel allowance, so the local Tories have been caught red handed plotting to review the future of our village schools and are now trying to deny reality." 

"However the attempt to claim that the issue does not exist is laughable. His Council Leader has been caught on tape telling the truth and that transcript is now being made available to people around the villages of Aberdeenshire. The people will draw their own conclusions and the Tory Party will reap the whirlwind. 

"I raised this issue with my fellow SNP candidate Stuart Donaldson in a video message which has been viewed almost 45,000 times in two days. There is no question that the Tories have been well and truly exposed and are now in total and abject disarray as a result. 

"Our rural schools are the heart of our Aberdeenshire communities and the SNP will defend them to the hilt." 

ENDS

Notes to editors: 

 Links to the BBC North East bulletins featuring the comments: 

Gifford's comments: https://soundcloud.com/bbcnortheast/aberdeen-0730-19-05-17

Argyll's comments: https://soundcloud.com/bbcnortheast/aberdeen-1230-19-05-17

Gifford's comments in the Evening Express:  

https://www.eveningexpress.co.uk/fp/news/local/aberdeenshire-council-chief-hails-authority-getting-job-done-without-political-spats/

"But the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in their former Alliance partnership earlier this year proposed to slash the education budget by £3 million, including reducing music tuition, the pupil support assistant budget and cutting £500,000 from special education.

He said: “That was our starting point and there are lots of different ways you could look at it.

“We had a huge list of proposed savings that were going to have to be made and we thought we could live with them.

“None of them were easy but there are choices to be made and education has to be looked at in the round.

“It’s way over half the budget of the council, to say education is going to be protected, immediately I would say it will have to come from somewhere else and that’s not possible or feasible.”