Tots march on Holyrood in bid to scrap “pub” nursery

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Children today joined parents and staff to protest at the Scottish Parliament

CHILDREN, staff and parentstoday (Tue) protested at the Scottish Parliament against council plans to shut their children’s nursery and move it into a “pub”.

Almost 40 children aged between two and five will receive their pre-school education inside Dalkeith Miners’ Club, Midlothian, under the plan.

Angry staff and parents at Woodburn Community Nursery said it was

“ridiculous’ to educate youngsters on licensed premises.

A petition aimed at reversing the move and carrying over 1,000 signatures was handed in to the Scottish Parliament today.

The proposal came about after Midlothian council decided to shut the nursery’s current home, Dalkeith Community Centre.

The council wants the move despite widespread concern about the links between exposure to alcohol at an early age and the chances of problem drinking.

And to make matters worse, Midlothian council is demanding a 3,000-a-year fee for the nursery to use the miners’ club even though the old premises were free.

The nursery will move into a function hall at the miners’ club which has its own bar, although the

“shutters’ will remain closed.

The room is located near the sports bar with its pool tables, darts and fruit machines. The bar opens at lunchtimes and parents and children can currently only access the building via the same entrance as punters.

The nursery would move into the function room on a three-year

“rolling contract’, starting this August.

Around 40 local parents and children today travelled to Holyrood to hand the petition over to Midlothian North and Musselburgh MSP, Colin Beattie, in a bid to secure a suitable alternative community facility.

Nursery manager Denise Smith said:

“I am meant to provide a safe and stimulating environment for young children, which I cannot do being near people with alcohol.

“The whole community is on our side. The only people who think it is a wonderful idea is Midlothian Council.

“I keep getting told it’s a club. I understand it’s a club but from 11am they’ve only got the bar open so to me that’s a pub environment. “

Denise said Midlothian had opted for the miners’ club because it did not want to have to pay to refurbish more suitable premises.

The charity leader also slammed Midlothian Council for backtracking on promises to renovate another former nursery building nearby for displaced Dalkeith centre users.

Disused former Thorneybank Nursery is in such disrepair Smith has been asked to shell out 350 an hour for safety checks just to view the building.

Mother-of-four, Paula McPheators (corr), 41, currently sends daughter Zoe, 4, to Woodburn nursery, while her two-and-a-half-year-old son Oliver is to follow suit later this year.

She said:

“I think it’s very wrong for a number of reasons. A licensed premise is not safe and not right for two-and-a-half year olds going into. “

She added:

“Scotland has got major alcohol problems right now and they are trying to alleviate that by putting price rises on drinks.

“And they’re going to be sending children into a licensed premises, which is not the right environment and not a good advert. “

A report produced by the Scottish Youth Commission on Alcohol last year found over half of young people agreed marketing and advertising of alcohol should be more tightly controlled to lessen exposure to Scotland’s drinking culture.

The newly-elected SNP administration is expected to use its majority at Holyrood to drive through controls on minimum pricing for alcohol.

David Hamilton, the MP for Midlothian – whose parents both attended the nursery at the axed community centre – recently pledged to look into the issue.

He said

“It is my intention to speak again to the local councillors and others to find a way through these difficulties. “

Midlothian Councillor, Peter Boyes, cabinet member for communities, said:

“As a first step, the Miners’ Welfare Club has agreed to provide accommodation for Woodburn Community Nursery – a non-Council-owned nursery.

“We are committed to ensuring that this new accommodation meets the needs of the parents and children of Woodburn Community Nursery and complies with the requirements of Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland. “

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