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Local MP: Scottish Government plans to take away independent identity of Cumbernauld College in Motherwell merger

Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 09:31 GMT on Sunday, July 7th, 2013.

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Image: Scott Campbell/ Cumbernauld Media.

LETTERS between the Scottish Government and key Cumbernauld/ Motherwell college stakeholders "orders" the business closure of Cumbernauld College, in a move described by local Labour politicians as "taking away" the "independent identity" of Cumbernauld's college.

Both colleges announced on May 23rd, 2013 that both college boards had approved the merger of Cumbernauld College with its Motherwell counterpart, in a move which will see the newly merged body transformed into ‘New College Lanarkshire’.

This week, however, letters have been made public that show the Scottish Government consulted with North Lanarkshire Council on an “order” to close Cumbernauld College, as a business - but not the campus - as part of the merger; a move condemned by local Labour politicians. 

An article in this week’s Cumbernauld News carried the reaction of Central Scotland MSP, Mark Griffin and Cumbernauld MP, Gregg McClymont, with the article carrying little detail on the contents of the letters themselves. 

Today, though, the letters have been found via the Scottish Government’s website, and shows the Scottish Government asking that all assets and properties of Cumbernauld College move into the ownership of Motherwell College. 

Both letters are dated June 7th, 2013 – one month today, with the letters appearing to be sent from the office of Mike Russell MSP, the Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning.

In the first letter, to a number of affected Chief Executives, it is said: “The colleges have recently completed a consultation exercise which sought the views of their stakeholders on this prospect. An analysis of that exercise will inform my decision when deciding whether to approve the action which the colleges wish to take. 

“The colleges have sought approval from Scottish Ministers to proceed with their intention to become a single institution which will be achieved by means of the formal closure of Cumbernauld College, and the transfer of the property and rights of this college to what is currently Motherwell College. The intention is that Motherwell College will later be renamed, though that will be subject to formal Ministerial approval at a later stage.” 

The letter ends by saying, “I understand that no campus closures are planned.”

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The second letter – of the same date, to the same receipts, reads: “The Scottish Ministers propose to exercise their power under section 3(1)(c) of the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 1992 (“the Act”) by making an order to close: Cumbernauld College

“The Scottish Ministers are required, by section 5(1) of the Act, to consult the education authority for the area in which the college is situated as well as any other person appearing to the Scottish Ministers to be affected by this proposal. This letter is being sent to you on the basis that you are a person appearing to be affected by this proposal. 

“In making an order under section 3(1)(c) of the Act to close colleges of further education, the Scottish Ministers are required (under section 25 of the Act) to make provision for the property and rights of the board of management to transfer to and vest in a charity. In terms of the current proposal, the intention is that the property and rights of Cumbernauld College will transfer to and vest in Motherwell College.” 

The letter ends by asking for the views of the Chief Executives to whom the letters were sent; bodies which included North Lanarkshire Council, the North Lanarkshire Community Planning Partnership, and the Scottish Government’s Director of Education – the final date for which submissions will be accepted from those CEOs is tomorrow.

The letter adds: “I should be grateful if you would let me have any views that you wish to make on this proposal by 17:00 on 8 July 2013 by emailing” 

Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East Labour MP, Gregg McClymont told the Cumbernauld News: “First our X-ray services were removed, then our Court shut down, and now the SNP Government want to end Cumbernauld College’s long proud history as an independent FE centre.”

The saga follows months of political scrapping between the local Labour and SNP parties over the proposal to merge Cumbernauld College with Motherwell College, in a bid to save money, which had previously seen Coatbridge College drop out of talks and promises requested, by local SNP MSP, Jamie Hepburn, that “local access” would be “guaranteed”.

The Scottish Government have said however that no campuses will close, with the order only being that assets, property and rights held by Cumbernauld College are moved to Motherwell College, as part of the merger.

Cumbernauld and Kilsyth SNP MSP, Jamie Hepburn has since described that the comments of both Labour politicians as scaremongering; reiterating the point from the Scottish Government that no campuses will close as part of the merger. 

A Scottish Government spokesperson added: “There are no plans to close any campus as part of the proposed New College Lanarkshire. Courses will be accessible to students across North and South Lanarkshire, East Dunbartonshire and beyond. Decisions on how to approach the merger are taken by a joint board with representatives of both colleges, staff and students consulted on the best model for the new college to provide the best quality and delivery of courses.”

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