SCOTTISH Borders Council has been accused of discrimination over its roll-out of extra early years childcare in Peebles nurseries.

As previously revealed in Peeblesshire News, families living in the Kingsland catchment will benefit from 1,140 hours annually from August next year.

Meanwhile across the river, children from the Priorsford catchment will remain on 600 hours until the Scottish Government roll-out deadline of 2020.

The decision was a result of the local authority phasing the extended hours based on areas of deprivation in Peebles.

But this has not gone down well with furious parents, who are demanding that the decision-maker they feel has divided the community explains their actions.

Priorsford parent, Christine Irvine has written to Conservative MP David Mundell and leader of Scottish Borders Council Shona Haslam, asking for answers.

She said: “I find it very hard to believe that this has been properly thought about at local council level, and I am disgusted and disappointed that there can be open discrimination is 2018.

“I do understand that there are deprivation statistics which have been looked at when deciding how to roll out the extended hours, but having been brought up in Peebles myself it’s not as simple as school catchment boundaries.”

Mrs Irvine said the roll-out of the hours will mean that not only the children in the ‘more deprived’ area will be entitled to more hours, but also children in the most affluent areas will benefit as they live in the same catchment area.

She added: “I can only see the discrimination to those who will miss out. Given that Peebles is a small town, is it not better that all children are entitled to the extra hours? If funding and availability are an issue prior to the actual 2020 roll out then why not step up the increase to 900 hours in 2019, then the full 1,140 hours in 2020? If this is too sensible then why not find these most deprived children in Peebles?”

However, Councillor Haslam (Cons, Tweeddale East) said the roll-out was based on the strict criteria set out by the Scottish Government by analysing deprivation statistics.

She said: “These statistics are a very blunt tool that fails to recognise the differences that exist in towns such as Peebles. North Peebles appears to be more deprived than south, but we know this masks the real issues.”

She said if the council had deviated from the criteria, it would have been penalised or forced to change plans to conform.

She added: “We only get the money in a phased way from the Scottish Government, so every time we do a roll out to a new area they give us money for that bit of the roll out.

“We couldn’t do the whole of the Borders at the same time because of this model and also the challenges around recruitment and providing buildings. This has meant that we have this discrepancy in the town of Peebles.”