Scotland politics

Scottish independence referendum: Are official campaigns being allowed into schools?

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BBC Scotland research has found that 26 of the 32 Scottish councils have barred the official referendum campaigns, Yes Scotland and Better Together, from going into schools ahead of polling day on 18 September.

Here is what each local authority told the BBC about its policy on high school pupils debating the Scottish independence referendum in classrooms.

What are the policies of Scottish councils?
Authority name Have campaign groups been barred? Council comment
Aberdeen Yes "The campaign groups would not be permitted to visit schools for any reason during the purdah period of the referendum."
Aberdeenshire No "Official campaign group representatives may be permitted to visit a school for the purposes of taking part in an organised formal debate where there is balanced representation of views."
Angus Yes "Whether or not campaign members are politicians, campaign representatives ('permitted participants') are not permitted to attend schools."
Argyll and Bute Yes "Some of our schools may well be using the period from 27th June - 18th September to hold discussions on the referendum as part of their learning and teaching and this will be endorsed by the Authority. However, schools will not be permitted to bring in external politicians to engage in any events or discussions."
Clackmannanshire Yes "All Council staff are required to act in a politically neutral and unbiased manner. That is, they must not, in the course of their work, promote one political viewpoint over another, or be seen to favour one political viewpoint over another."
Dumfries and Galloway Yes "Following the guidance previously issued to schools, our advice is that visits to schools for campaign purposes should be avoided during the 28 day period preceding the referendum."
Dundee Yes "If our schools receive a request from anyone campaigning as part of the referendum the school has been sent information reminding them that political neutrality must be maintained."
East Ayrshire No "The official campaign groups can visit the schools but they need to do so at the same time as part of a joint visit - they cannot visit separately."
East Dunbartonshire Yes "The same restrictions apply as before. There can be a general discussion or debate on the issues related to the referendum and teachers are required to take account of the guidance on political literacy issued by Education Scotland."
East Lothian Yes "Schools have been observing the Guidance - 'The Scottish Independence Debate - Promotional Activities by Councils', which advises on activity during the Purdah period. This states that '... councils need to be very clear and careful that they do not undertake any activities that could fall within areas covered by 2 or 3 i.e. material that (a) deals with any issues raised by the referendum question; or (b) puts any argument for or against any outcome'. Therefore, by extension, it would be extremely unlikely that they would be hosting visits by Yes or No campaigners during the Purdah period."
East Renfrewshire Yes "During the pre-election period the two official campaign groups would not be invited to schools."
Edinburgh No (NOTE: Edinburgh City Council asked us to change its answer to this question: "Have campaign groups been barred?" from yes to no.) Official guidance issued to schools on Wednesday of this week allows Yes/No campaigners into schools as long as both parties are represented to ensure a balanced approach. (This is a new comment as requested by the council)
Falkirk Yes "We had an agreed plan for activities up to the end of the school session i.e. June 2014. We will be discussing with headteachers how the run-up to the Referendum should be handled, particularly with regard to 'rules of purdah' when they have been circulated. We will consider collectively any further activities once headteachers have returned from holidays."
Fife Yes "We don't think facilitating this would be in line with the legislation."
Glasgow Yes Further visits by the two main campaign groups "would not be possible given the legislation."
Highland Yes "There are no formally organised debates during this time. However, some discussion would be permissible in Modern Studies if it is part of the course delivery. There will be no staff involvement in facilitating student-led debates unless it relates to course delivery."
Inverclyde Yes "Two youth speakers from each of the 2 official campaign groups will be visiting secondary schools in Inverclyde on 19 August 2014 to take part in Question Time type events. There are no other planned visits by the national campaign groups."
Midlothian Yes "It is not appropriate for any political lobby group to visit schools during purdah."
Moray Yes "All of our eight secondaries had a debate and took part in a mock referendum towards the end of last term. Head teachers have been advised that there should be no debates held in school in relation to the referendum from when the schools return in August. General, relevant classroom discussion... can continue as it usually does in the run-up to any election period as part of everyday learning and teaching."
Na h-Eileanan Siar No "The two campaign groups are allowed to visit secondary schools. The visits are managed by school leaders who are required to ensure that such visits comply with the guidance issued by the Comhairle."
North Ayrshire Yes "The schools return after the summer break on August 18 and the pre-election period begins on August 21. After August 21 no such visits would be permitted."
North Lanarkshire Yes "We wouldn't allow political parties into schools during the purdah period and the same will hold true for the referendum. But, of course, that doesn't prevent schools holding debates and mock election for pupils."
Orkney No "In the interests of even-handedness, both sides of the debate would have to be involved in any such visit. This would have to take place outside class time (e.g. lunchtime) and would have to be short."
Perth and Kinross Yes "As per pre-election guidance they [the two main campaign groups] will not be allowed to visit the schools."
Renfrewshire Yes "Our education service hosted four hustings meetings in different areas of Renfrewshire during April and May where local secondary pupils could attend and debate with each other and representatives of the two campaigns."
Scottish Borders Yes "The council is looking to avoid them [the two main campaign groups] during the 28 day pre-poll period."
Shetland Islands No "If any campaign group requests an opportunity to address pupils [i.e. not a public meeting], it can be allowed to take place, provided there is adequate notice and that access is balanced to both sides of the Referendum debate. However, any School can refuse to accommodate such a request, and all schools in Shetland have taken the decision not to permit any such events."
South Ayrshire Yes "Schools will be allowed to make their own arrangements within the guidance already published."
South Lanarkshire Yes "Over 500 young people from schools throughout South Lanarkshire took part in a debate on independence at Hamilton Town House in June. Representatives from the Yes and No campaign pitched their points to the audience of 16 and 17 year olds."
Stirling Yes "All council officers must act in a politically neutral and unbiased manner, and cannot promote or be seen to promote one political viewpoint over another."
West Dunbartonshire Yes "The two groups cannot visit during the purdah period."
West Lothian Yes "The Scottish Independence Referendum Act of 2013 makes it clear that the two official campaign groups should be allowed access to suitable rooms in council premises, including schools, for official campaign business during the purdah period. This would be the only access to schools permitted for the campaigns at this time, and would not involve any contact with pupils during the school day."