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Parents of Wester Ross pupils demand answers over 'unauthorised' use of weed-killer at Ullapool Primary School

By Scott Maclennan

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Parent Ailsa McLellan: Horrified.
Parent Ailsa McLellan: Horrified.

OUTRAGED parents of primary school children have slammed Highland Council for its "incredibly uncooperative" response to their concerns over the use of a partially banned weed-killer in play areas.

A probe is now under way with politicians at all levels of government aware and parents determined to get answers.

The apparently unathorised use at Ullapool Primary of a weed killer regarded as potentially carcinogenic by campaigners first came to light back in April after dead grass was noticed in a photo with children kneeling around the affected area.

SEE ALSO:Turf dug up as council admits weed-killer blunder

The parent council was only made aware of the situation on May 19 and voiced dismay after requests made last year that no spraying is done within school grounds.

Ailsa McLellan, who has two children at the school, said she was bewildered: “It is difficult to know what has gone on as Highland Council have been incredibly uncooperative, taking over a month to admit that protocol has been breached, but giving no further detail.

“The fact that someone entered a primary/nursery without consent or knowledge of staff and sprayed a potentially carcinogenic weed killer in an area kids literally roll around in every day is horrifying and a breach of school security.

“Highland Council should have acted quickly and decisively to assuage the fears of parents and staff, they did neither. On top of the health risks there are wider environmental issues, glyphosate is known to harm many insects including bees and worms.

“We need to be teaching our kids to live in a way that is kinder to the planet, not normalising the huge council sponsored areas of dead grass and 'weeds' that appear around our villages every spring in the name of tidiness.”

A partial ban was put in place in 2018 by the local authority but disquiet remains.

The use of weed killers with glyphosate was supposed to have been phased out after councillors agreed in 2019 to ban the use of such products at all sports, recreation facilities and playgrounds and schools.

Officers were to have prepared a business case for consideration on options for a complete ban.

Nina Hilton: Call for full ban.
Nina Hilton: Call for full ban.

Nina Hilton, who also has two children at the school, said “the original partial ban is a joke”.

She said: “It should just be banned completely, we all know how dangerous glyphosates are. It's even more concerning that this was done on our school grounds without any warning.

“It was discovered by the burnt patches around trees and plants. Our kids are kneeling and playing there in shorts and skirts now it's summer, and an especially vulnerable one like my youngest could pick up something from there and put it in his mouth. We need swift action to make sure this won't happen anymore.”

Councillor Liz Kraft.
Councillor Liz Kraft.

Local councillor Liz Kraft has shared Highland Council's statement on the issue with concerned parents.

A spokesman for Highland Council told us the matter is being “investigated”: “We are aware of concerns raised over use of glyphosate in the grounds of Ullapool Primary.

“In 2019, Highland Council agreed a partial ban on the use of glyphosate in certain areas including all sports and recreation facilities.

“This applied to child play areas where it is Highland Council’s policy that glyphosate would not be used. The council is investigating this matter and therefore we are unable to provide further information until this is complete.”

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