Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Further email to Nan McFarlane re FUTURE OF MARR COLLEGE of 31.08.2010

I decided to write a reply after all...

Dear Nan,

Thank you once again for your reply.

As regards the building built in the late 70s in addition to the facilities you mention I can recall a conservative estimate of 30 additional classrooms which were included (I attended it when the new extension was open) although these may currently be disused because of South Ayrshire Council's neglect of the school. [The new building included classrooms for Modern Languages, Geography, History, Latin, Classics, Art, Woodwork, Technical Drawing, a common room for 6th years, 2 gyms, 1 large games hall, a library, a canteen, etc at that time. English, Sciences, Music, Drama, Home Economics, Computing, Maths stayed in the old building.] Therefore although this may not have been sufficient to meet the over capacity problem it in a large part (if not completely) addressed it.

As regards your point about Marr College being an attraction for people coming to live in Troon. If the school was closed and a new one opened this removes one of the reasons people wish to relocate to Troon as the school available would be just like all the others. This is I believe is a major reason to keep the existing school open and to build on its reputation, not destroy it.

I thank you for taking the time to write back to me once again. I look forward to good outcome for Marr College and its current and future pupils.


Christopher Crawford


Please find below a further reply from Nan McFarlane, SNP leader and councillor for Troon on South Ayshire Council.

It is interesting to note her information about how Marr College was built and that she acknowledges that people have in a large part moved to Troon so that they could send their children to Marr.

However she has proved that she does not know what is contained in the new extension built on to the school in the late 70s. Not only does it have the facilities that she mentions it also contains at least 30 classrooms that I can remember which means ofcourse that it did at least partially address the problem of the lack of capacity. So although the school may have been created with an expected role of 380 the new school building increases that figure.

I have changed my mind and am going to write back though at this stage. Please see her reply below.

Dear Mr Crawford,

Thank you for your reply to my email.

I felt it important to answer your concerns regarding my lack of explanation of the differences of the school role from 1935 and the capacity issue of the building. C.K.Marr died on 19th February, 1919 and left his fortune to benefit the education of the people of Troon. It was the newly formed Trust at that time who (a) decided some of the money should be used for a new secondary school as the town did not have one. C.K.Marr had to travel to Ayr to complete his education. It was the Trust who decided to (b) engage the best architect in Scotland to design a school that would gain a worldwide reputation for its structure. Both of those decisions created a demand that went far beyond any anticipated school role number. This demand instigated a Council house build at Muirhead, Logan Drive and Barassie to meet the rapid growth in the town coming from families moving in to ensure their children secured a place at Marr College. Ottoline Drive and surrounding streets were constructed to house the owner/occupier families moving to Troon to access the school and all the benefits provided by the Trust. The capacity at the school was breached not long after it was opened and has continued to be stretched ever since.

What I was basically saying was the original building was built to house only around 380 pupils. I firmly believe the Trust failed to take into consideration the demand that would be created by the reputation the school would take on. In 1975 when Strathclyde took over, the extension was built to provide a library, gym and dining hall but did not improve the capacity problem. This is a situation that still exists today.

I hope this information is helpful


Friday, 27 August 2010

return email to NanMcFarlane re MARR COLLEGE


Dear Ms McFarlane,

Thank you for your email of 16th August 2010 which I read with interest.

It was very kind of you to take the time out to answer the points I raised (considerably different to your council colleague Phillip Saxton from whom I have still not heard anything). I had not intended to write again but given the length of your reply and the time it must have taken you to compose it I thought it only right to come back to you on a few points.

I had no idea that you had attended Marr College – this is reassuring. I also attended between 1981 and 1987 shortly after the new extension had been built. I can’t say as I enjoyed my time there but I realize that it was and remains a good school, and therefore worthy of making every effort to retain it for the future young people of Troon as CK Marr intended.

I am well aware that the original school building was built for a capacity considerably lower than the current school role. However the new extension built in the late 1970s was meant to address this problem. By not taking this into account in your reply you are giving the misleading impression that the current school including the extension if it had been maintained properly is inadequate for the current number of pupils on its role. That is not to say that certain things could not have been upgraded too but that is by the way.

However conversely you could argue that the current playing fields (over 13.8 hectares) were built for a school role of 380 and now the council is trying to shoe horn 1250 pupils on to them. Obviously if the Council select the new building option then they will be trying to fit a school role of 1250 on playing fields of about 8 hectares in size making the problem worse!

I am very pleased to hear that the new build option or indeed the refurbishment option will be built without using the PFI or PPP funding mechanism. That is a considerable relief. I agree with you about these PFI and PPP funded schools and other public buildings being a financial mill stone around the neck of Scottish councils and other public organisations. I did say so at the time when it was unfashionable to say so, but of course we are now where we are. Previous mismanagement can only be rectified now – we can’t unfortunately turn the clock back.

It is refreshing to hear that you also consider that Marr College has indeed been neglected over the years and are fighting to rectify this.

I still do disagree with your views regarding the Historic Scotland listing. I had no idea that the tiles in the halls were listed but am very pleased that they are. Listing is there to preserve something of value for future generations and should not be seen as a barrier to improvements. I believe that the building and the traditions of the school as well as its reputation are worth fighting for but I agree it must be improved for current and future generations.

I am aware of what someone said who was on these recent tours and I quote ‘On the Marr tour we were informed that it was impossible to build a handrail on the stairs up from the vestibules due to the listed nature of the tiles. The guide seemed quite surprised when my mother pointed out that a bannister could be free-standing fixed to the (presumably unlisted) stone staircase. "Nobody's thought of that" was the startled reply.’ This is indicative of the attitude that seems to pervade everything to do with Marr College. It is all ‘can’t do this’ rather than ‘can do this’. It has been pervasive since the 1970s when Strathclyde Region tried to get their hands on the Marr Trust money.

Interesting to note from those that were able to go on the school tour that it seems that it is primarily the new building (not the old one) that is primarily the problem here. I think this must be something to do with the quality of the old building as opposed to the new one.

I do not understand the problem of having pupils on site during refurbishment works. I quote ‘If the playing fields are not an option the Council will need to decant all the pupils somewhere else as the law dictates we cannot have children being educated on a building site over and above the health and safety issue.’ This is because I stay directly opposite a school in Glasgow which is currently undergoing extensive refurbishment. If the law does indeed dictate that children cannot be educated on the building site then I believe that Glasgow City Council are currently breaking that law.

I am very pleased to hear that the playing fields are protected from development through planning laws as I believe that they are very important for the whole of Troon as they are. Any attempt at reducing the size of them should be resisted. However if the Council do wish to proceed with the development of a new school I have no doubt that this would not pose a great problem to them given that they are part of the ‘establishment’.

If this is indeed a ‘genuine’ consultation then I for one will be most pleased that people’s views are taken into account. This would then have the honour of being the first consultation where I would have been aware that this is has occurred in all but very minor ways when it suits what is wanted in the first place. I am sure from your reply that you will do everything to ensure that this occurs on this occasion.

I am aware that education is not only about buildings, but it is indeed part of it. I still do not understand why old buildings are not just as good as new ones (and on this occasion I believe they are much better given their stature, attractiveness, traditions, etc), or there would be no need to do anything on this occasion as the children could be educated in the open air.

I wholeheartedly concur with your desire to maintain and improve education for those in Troon and across South Ayrshire and I very impressed with your intelligent and passionate reply. You obviously care about this issue and this is most refreshing.

Yours sincerely

Christopher Crawford


Tuesday, 24 August 2010


Further to my post of 09.08.2010 on which my reply letter to Brian Donohoe MP was almost completed based I am now able to upload his reply. I have typed this out verbatim grammatical errors included.

Please note before reading. I have at no stage stated that Marr College in it present state is fit for purpose and I don't oppose a decision being taken sooner rather than later provided it is the correct one for the current and future pupils of Marr College. And as we have stated in the Marr group there is currently no evidence of improved educational outcomes at the new schools.

I rest my case. I don't know even if it worth sending him another letter. It is like talking to a brick wall, which I suppose is no different to the majority of Government representatives no matter what the level in my experience!

Dated 29th August 2010

Dear Christopher

Marr College

Thank you for your letter of 9th August and I take your views into account. However, I am still firmly of the opinion that Marr College in its present state is not fit for purpose and that the council have to take a decision sooner rather than later. My preferred option remains a new build, having seen what has been established in Saltcoats, Dreghorn and in Prestwick, where modern buildings play their part in the education by higher standard that prevails inside Marr College at present.

Best wishes

Yours sincerely

Brian H Donohoe MP
Central Ayrshire

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Reply from Nan McFarlane re: FUTURE OF MARR COLLEGE, dated 16.08.2010

Further to my post of 09.08.2010, Nan McFarlane is South Ayrshire Council member for Troon and SNP Group Leader who also sits on the Marr Trust board.
Dear Mr Crawford,

Thank you for your comments regarding Marr College. I would like to take this opportunity to reply to some of the issues you have raised in your email.

Firstly could I say I attended Marr College from 1950 -1953. My memories of the College are the plush purple carpets and curtains, filled art galleries, daily assemblies with organ playing, every pupil wearing school uniforms, sports days and tables groaning with silverware at prizegivings and a school role of just over 400.

Marr College was built to accommodate 380 pupils, it currently has a school role of 1,130 and at one time was over 1,500. The dramatic increase of school numbers over the years has affected a building designed for much less. I also sat on the Marr Educational Trust for eight years as a Community Council member before being elected onto the Council in 2007. My role now on the Trust is as a Council representative but I have not attended any meeting of the Trust since the start of the informal consultation. I have to advise you that as a member of the Council’s Cabinet, I will be one of seven Members who will take the final decision on Marr College. I therefore need to be impartial during the consultation period.

However, I can provide you with some factual information that may be helpful for you to understand more fully the situation of the future of Marr College.

The ongoing consultation is only an informal one and there will be a formal consultation taking place later this year which will include details of both the refurbishment and replacement proposals, giving costs, plans and timescales provided the Scottish Government comes forward with further funding for schools.

Schools that have already been replaced recently in Scotland were all built during the 1950’s; they were not constructed to what would be acceptable in today’s standards hence the reason they were being replaced. The five schools South Ayrshire Council approved for replacement in 2005 were proposed under a finance scheme called PPP which since 2007 have given the new Council members a major millstone round our necks to pay off. A PPP system works in the same way as a mortgage and will take 30 years to pay off and only then ownership of the schools pass to the Council. Meanwhile the developer has responsibility for the maintenance of the schools over the 30 year period.

The current school building scheme has been implemented by the SNP Scottish Government, who having no borrowing powers are awarding two thirds of the cost of a secondary school with the Council borrowing the third. The Council now have the opportunity to build schools and incorporate ongoing financial maintenance plans which has greater sustainability and ensures our schools are maintained in perpetuity.

You are quite right to say Marr College has been neglected over the years by former administrations, that was one of the reasons I put myself up for election to bring about change to stop this municipal vandalism and to make the necessary changes to the way the Council is run. I believe I and my fellow Councillors are doing just that. In the past Marr College missed out on funding as there were no plans on the table for the school. The current consultation is to be ready with plans for any cash that could come our way from the Scottish Government.

However, I have to disagree with your views on the historical listing of the building. I cannot speak for Councillor Hywel Davies, but he didn’t explain himself well enough to give the full extent of the listing. The assembly hall is listed which includes the sloping floor, the seats and the ceiling ruling out any multi-use of the space. The tiles on the corridors are listed and require the services of a specialist company if we needed to do any work on the walls. We got permission from Historic Scotland to put up a “Welcome to Marr College” plasma screen in reception, a similar one erected in a nearby school cost just over £200 to install, the one at Marr was over £1,000 to install due to the specialist help required to mount it. Some of the school has been altered but it has been in areas that are not covered by any historical listing.

One point we have to consider should the option of a refurbishment be implemented, is where do we house the pupils for two years while the work is ongoing. It has been suggested that temporary huts be placed on the playing fields and this would take up most of the playing fields. The ground would need to be excavated for sewage and power to service the huts. If the playing fields are not an option the Council will need to decant all the pupils somewhere else as the law dictates we cannot have children being educated on a building site over and above the health and safety issue. Other factors to consider is the purchase of the building and the land it sits on which is estimated at £7 million. The playing field would then be leased to the Council. If refurbishment is not the preferred option and a new school is built elsewhere, the Marr College will revert back into the ownership of the Marr Trust again and I understand the Marr Trust have had developers in looking at the building to convert it into a future funding stream for them if this happens.

A new build on the playing field will encounter as many problems as a refurbishment of the building. The Council will need to buy 40% of the space to build a school and lease the remainder as playing fields. The Trust is open to all possibilities as long as they can keep a funding stream going for their own educational activities. The cost of such a prestigious piece of land will be expensive and we believe the Trust may not want to sell off all the playing field to the Council which will incur another cost of leasing the playing field. There is also the issue of planning to overcome as playing fields are protected from development.

Lastly can I assure you this is genuine consultation or as you put it ‘real’. We started out with a group made up of school staff, pupils, the Parent Teacher Association, Community Council members, interested public members, the Marr Trust and local Elected Members to look at possible sites in Troon. The results were considered by independent consultants and reduced down to the two options currently out for consultation. The next stage is to go public with the details of the two options through a formal consultation period. The final results will be placed with the Council’s Cabinet for consideration which will in turn come before the full Council meeting for approval. The Council have no preferred option, we have taken no decisions on the future of the Marr College other than to approve the consultation process.

I hope this long spiel from me has given you some assurances that democracy is alive and well in South Ayrshire. I would just like to finish by saying education should not be about buildings, it is the quality of what is in them that counts, my priority is the future education of the youngsters in, not only Troon, but all over South Ayrshire. I want to raise the bar on education so that it comes up to the standards I experienced at Marr all those years ago and a good environment for my own grandchildren to be taught in.

Nan McFarlane

SNP Group Leader
Christopher Crawford
My website http://www.christophercrawford.110mb.com/

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The Coalitions First 100 days polled



The news continues to get worse for the Liberal Democrats the junior partner in the CON DEM coalition Government.

A survey conducted by Sky News discovered that 43% of those asked would back the Conservatives if an election was held today, but just 8% would vote Lib Dem, while 24% said they would vote for Labour.

A poll from polling organisation ComRes found that more than 33% of voters who supported the Liberal Democrats at the election have abandoned the party. I am one of the abandonees.

It has managed to hold on to 63% of its voters (quite a feat given the circumstances), compared with the 92% of Labour voters and 94% of Conservatives who have remained loyal. The proportion of 18-24 year olds supporting the Lib Dems has fallen in each polls since the election and now stands at 26%.

Polls also showed my own personal view is one shared by many that the Liberal Democrats sold out to go into coalition with the Conservatives.

However I still find it amazing, disappointing, and feel betrayed by the Liberal Democrats having voted for them for the first time during the recent UK elections. The last thing I wanted or believed that the UK needed was a Conservative Government and they allowed the UK to end up with exactly that.


Monday, 9 August 2010


I am currently proud to be involved in the campaign to save Marr College. Recently I have been encouraging people to sign the online and traditional petitions around Troon, and generally promoting the campaign to refurbish Marr College around its iconic main building and develop the playing fields into a first class sports facility for Troon and the surrounding area.

I am really pleased at the commitment being shown by South Ayrshire Council to finding a resolution to the long term problems of secondary provision in Troon, but I believe that this problem is largely if not completely of the council’s own making given its long term neglect of Marr College and facilities which has been complained about for a long number of years by the local community.

When Marr was built it was constructed to a standard far beyond that required to provide a functional school. The copper dome, wood panelling, stained glass, ornate stonework, hall with full stage and pipe organ, intricate plasterwork and so on. None of this was necessary to provide a working school. This creates an environment that inspires. Its individuality promotes loyalty to its identity and the community, (and doesn't this site show this has worked), and shows that it is possible in life to achieve more than mere function. Would an all new school really achieve this? No is the answer as it would look like all the others, be built for functionality and have a lifetime of 30 years and then require demolition once again.

The existing building is an iconic structure and has lasted 80 years so far. The new one would be just like all the others and would require to be replaced in a short time. It would also destroy around half of the existing playing fields with the possibility that when the next new school is required the other half would go too. Signs of damp in the new Prestwick Academy after a few years also do not bode well for a new build.

SAC have stated that the fact that the Marr old building is listed would make the refurbishment impossible. Quote from Hywel Davies of SAC; "Historic Scotland has made it impossible to modernise the existing building to the extent that we cannot even replace the seats in the theatre". Historic Scotland have indicated they would do everything possible to support local councils / building owners to ensure refurbishment of existing listed buildings in order that they met the requirements of their intended use. They expressed surprise about the comments made above in respect to HS making it 'impossible to modernise the existing building'. HS concentrate on the exterior of the old building the entrance vestibule and main hall little or nothing is said about the rest of the interior, which strongly suggests that providing the integrity of the building is maintained suitable alterations would be permitted. Of-course many internal areas of the old school have been altered substantially already strongly indicating that this is the case. This also scotches quite clearly some assertions that there will be there will be severe and potentially very expensive limitations on internal and external adaptations.

The local MP Brian H Donahoe is of the opinion that the refurbishment option is 'unaffordable'. I believe the new build option is unaffordable both in financial and human terms.

The new school would probably be built using private finance costing the council and the local community more money in the long term while also losing control over the building.

There isn't really any factual evidence in terms of 'improved results' to support new builds from what I can see that South Ayrshire Council constantly mention.

One of the points raised by the Council at the consultation meetings is the fact that the games fields are located across the other side of a golf course and this reduces the time available for games. This is a characteristic of the existing school that has been present since it was built. If this is now such an issue given that a new school being built on part of the golf course has been considered, why could the playing fields not be moved to the part of adjacent to the existing school? Compared to Prestwick Academy pupils who have to make use of the Caledonian FC pitches which require pupils to cross a busy road to use a rented facility I cannot see how the location of the playing fields in relation to the school can really be considered to be a problem.

There is also the problem of the security of existing buildings. This could be vastly improved with enhanced security arrangements by South Ayrshire Council in agreement with Marr Trust. However this could all ready have been done if the Council had wanted to do it. Instead it is being used as a reason to close the school when they have in their hands the means by which the security problem could be reduced.

It is stated by SAC and Mr Donahoe MP that that temporary hutted classroom accommodation would be extremely damaging to the education of pupils affected by this added disruption whilst also be very costly. The pupils affected by the previous refurbishment and building do not think so.

I am also reminded of one of the participants in the Marr campaign who works as a Senior Project Manager in construction. He has refurbished major department stores in London and kept them open to the public, plus a Corporate HQ with over 3,000 staff in it without major disruption to the client or staff although some had to move around whilst works went on, so this astronomical cost regarding the decant of pupils is an exaggeration, as a good project management would easily plan the works around the College population and timetables.

I therefore cannot see that any of the arguments in favour of the new build option do not equally apply to the refurbishment of the existing school. I do see however that the drawbacks of the new build option are answered by the refurbishment of the existing school.

On additional question: Why have they not replaced the tennis courts as promised when the present extension took these away thirty years ago?

Given the results of public 'consultations' in the past carried out by Governments I do hope this is a real one and not just a pretend one like they tend to be i.e. everyone is entitled to have an opinion as long as it the one that the Council/ Government wants you to have!

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Roads, public transport and all that jazz

It often amazes me how difficult it is for Governments to find money for public transport maintenance improvement.

The Scottish Government is not awash with money (although it is awash with it in comparison to what it will be next year!) but it still managed to find the money for the M74 connection on the South Side of Glasgow, that is at this moment laying waste to another part of the city. This few miles of motorway at best duplicates roads all ready in existence and at worst makes another pedestrian no mans land near the centre of Glasgow that creates more pollution and encourages more road traffic. This is rather ironic considering in Birmingham, another city which climbed on the city centre motorways bandwagon of the late 1960s and 1970s is in the process of removing some of them, and so is doing the exact opposite of what Glasgow continues to have done to it.

Yet it could not find the money for the Glasgow Airport Rail Link which was only a few miles of rail line which would have improved the infrastructure, reduced pollution and provided a real improvement to the public transport infrastructure. It is especially ironic given that the rail improvements required between Glasgow Central and Paisley St James in order to connect the GARL have actually all ready been completed. Some of you may have noticed the 2 new platforms in Glasgow Central station which are the most obvious sign of this 'improvement'. It is now only an 'improvement' as the actual main improvement has not been built but a lot of money spent.

We do live in a strange world!


Sunday, 1 August 2010

Recent polls show LibDems at 12%!


Goodness me! What a surprise (not!!).

In the above the latest opinion polls of UK voting intentions show the Liberal Democrats at 12%.

This surely cannot be any surprise to them after their political shananigans in May which resulted in them becoming part of the CON-DEM Government. Indeed I am shocked their polling figures are not even lower given that they have shown themselves to be devoid of principle and only interested in the pursuit of power.

Also in the Sunday Times today it showed that Nick Clegg's personal approval ratings had plunged. Again that is no surprise whatsoever. Given that in the programme '5 Days in May that Changed Britain' on Thursday night he stated that he had been at best economical with the truth during the election campaign having changed his mind about immediate spending cuts and conveniently not telling anyone, even in his own party! He also led the Liberal Democrats to jetison nearly all of their policies and principles in order to become part of the CON-DEM Government. I am surprised anyone 'approves' of him.

Here's hoping things look up politically soon. At the moment I fear the UK is doomed.