Council snubs First Minister's 'rally'

North Lanarkshire Council has refused to send high school pupils voting in their first election to meet First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Monday.

Friday, 18th March 2016, 1:28 pm
Updated Tuesday, 22nd March 2016, 11:44 am
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will not be addressing pupils from North Lanarkshire on Monday

A Scottish Government official wrote to education bosses asking them to get pupils from each school to an “Ask the First Minister” event in Edinburgh.

In her letter Rachel Sunderland, head of the people and leadership unit at the Scottish Government’s learning directorate, said: “This will be a fantastic opportunity for young people to hear directly from the First Minister and to ask her questions.

“The event will be for young people aged 16-17. In the main we would anticipate two pupils from each school, ideally a boy and a girl.”

The event will be held just days before the Scottish Parliament is dissolved on Wednesday, March 23, in preparation for May’s election.

The council’s education convener Frank McNally accused Ms Sturgeon of using public money to fund an SNP rally and stated North Lanarkshire pupils would not be involved.

He said: “I am delighted that 16 and 17 year olds are entitled to vote in the Scottish Parliament elections.

“It is right that our young people should be able to participate fully in the process and have as much information as possible.

“However, what they hear should be balanced, and clearly Nicola Sturgeon just wants to hold an SNP rally using civil service resources.

“That is unacceptable and wholly inappropriate, so we will not be supporting this event.”

The Scottish Government defended the event.

A spokesperson said: “The Ask the FM event is an opportunity for young people to engage with the First Minister in a question and answer session in association with youth organisation YoungScot, and is similar to other such events we have previously held.”