My loyalty to OLSP is profound, and deeply personal. For many years I had the privilege of teaching there and after a long career conducted in French and German schools and colleges as well as in many places in Scotland, I encountered in OLSP the most magnificent, committed teaching staff I have ever worked with. Pupils and staff have achieved exceptional results in a building which has been unfit for purpose for a long time. I agree with the head teacher and staff that the plans for a new school on the present site, as presented at the recent public meeting there, are unacceptable, since they would cause huge disruption during the building process and offer inadequate sports facilities. This school deserves a state-of-the-art replacement to see it through to the middle of the 21st Century.

My devotion to the town of Dumbarton is passionate, my family having lived here for centuries and many of them having served the town as burgesses and councillors from the early 14th Century onwards. Like so many Dumbarton residents I have been dismayed and angered over the years at the economic degeneration of our town and the reduction of the High Street to the impoverished wasteland it is today. The deterioration of our visual environment makes it all the more urgent to preserve what is left and the unimpeded view of Dumbarton Rock from Levengrove Park and Posties Park is not only one of the glories of our town and of the Clyde estuary, but one of the most stunning sights in Scotland. Yet West Dunbartonshire Council, by designating this as the only alternative site to Cardross Road, would deprive us of this.

There are many reasons why Posties Park is unsuitable for a large school building. These have been expressed in many excellent letters. Everyone in Dumbarton knows of the historical problems of flooding and landslip in the area. (The name of the adjacent area — Sandpoint — gives a clue.) Add to that the difficulties and cost of upgrading road access and building a footbridge, the destruction of wildlife habitat, the loss of the annual Scottish Pipe Band Championships, the permanent loss of a vital recreational resource, possible costly legal challenges etc etc. To build a school on Posties would not only be foolish, but an act of gross civic vandalism. It is not acceptable.

The consultation process has been a shabby business, heavily slanted, I believe, towards acceptance of the Posties Park option. Why did Joyce White, the chief executive, allow the director of Education, whose favourable view of the Posties option is widely known, to conduct the public meeting? He presented the audience with the Hobson’s Choice of the present site, clearly unacceptable to the head teacher and staff, and Posties Park. Enquiries about the suitability and costs involved in other sites were dismissed and Mr Lanagan resolutely refused to answer questions on possible changes to Woodyard Road, indicating neither where they might be nor what they might cost. Terry Lanagan is the highly paid official who, less than a year ago, was trying to ram his proposed timetable changes down the throats of parents, pupils and staff at Our Lady and Saint Patrick’s. He is now, as far as I can see, along with the present administration, trying to ram the Posties Park option down the throats of the entire present and future population of Dumbarton. I am informed that he is approaching retirement age, and I hope that this is not a legacy issue for him. He, along with present and past West Dunbartonshire councillors, is to be congratulated on providing us with fine new secondary schools in Clydebank, the Vale of Leven and Dumbarton. As a former teacher I obviously wish at least as fine a school for Our Lady and Saint Patrick’s, but there is a slight doubt in my mind that Mr Lanagan, in the manner of outgoing French presidents who like to leave lasting monuments to their administrations in Paris, might be out to complete his legacy with a school at Posties.

I do not hold out much hope for a change of heart in West Dunbartonshire Council.

To my mind the likely scenario is the one I dread most: — The council will go ahead with the Posties option, leading to increasing rancour in the town, escalating costs as the many difficulties outlined in the geo-technical report submitted to the council, (and glossed over by the director of Education at the afore-mentioned public meeting) have to be addressed, delays, arguments in council and, if one blade of grass in Levengrove Park is disturbed, legal action which could go on for years and deprive pupils and staff at Our Lady and Saint Patrick’s of the fine new school they so richly deserve. By that time, I imagine Terry Lanagan will have left West Dunbartonshire, having ridden into the sunset with his pension, never to be seen again.

Please, councillors, look at this again. Neither of the proposed options is suitable. Adapt or change your plans, calculate whether other, discarded sites might, in the long run, be cheaper than Posties, add a small dash of creative thinking and a large dash of common sense to your deliberations and come up with a plan worthy of both school and town. If you choose, seek divine inspiration. I suggest the second verse and refrain of the old children’s bible song, “The Wise Man Built His House Upon a Rock”: The foolish man built his house upon the sand The foolish man built his house upon the sand The foolish man built his house upon the sand And the rain came tumbling down Oh, the rain came down And the floods came up The rain came down And the floods came up The rain came down And the floods came up And the foolish man’s house went ‘splat’.Elspeth Crocket (nee Lang)