THE roll-out of extra nursery hours which caused tantrums amongst Peebles parents angry was done as “fairly as possible”.

Parents of nursery children in the Priorsford catchment area are reeling at plans to phase in the increased early years hours from 600 to 1,140 annually to only half the town.

Families from Kingsland will benefit this year while Priorsford has to wait until the roll-out deadline of 2020.

The north-south divide in Peebles happened after the local authority was instructed to phase in the extra hours based on child poverty statistics.

A petition by parents was presented to Scottish Borders Council’s Audit and Scrutiny Committee and local councillors asked if an “exceptional arrangement” could be made for Priorsford.

When asked about the early years expansion at Peebles Community Council last week, Councillor Stuart Bell said: “This council is in the same situation as other councils in that it can’t do it altogether and therefore is phasing it in over a period of time.

“My colleagues Councillor Chapman and Councillor Anderson are also on the petitions committee and we interrogated whether there is a possibility of making an exceptional arrangement in regard to Priorsford and there some practical problems in terms of being able to do that.

“We couldn’t see a way in which an exception could be made to the scheme.

"The scheme is designed to afford the opportunity to families in a catchment area that is deemed to be relatively more deprived, and a distinction was made between the deprivation in the Kingsland catchment area versus the deprivation of the Priorsford area which is why Kingsland was scheduled earlier.”

Council officers are to investigate the possibility of accelerating the provision for eligible two year olds across the whole of the Borders.

Councillor Heather Anderson added: “Once we got under the skin of the criteria we couldn’t disagree with it, we thought it was applied as fairly as possible.”

But one community councillor said he has been approached by a mother struggling to return to work due to childcare issues.

Councillor Bell replied: “The intention of it is not just to bridge the attainment gap by improving pre-school education of young people but it is also to afford the opportunity for working mothers to return to work.”

Councillor Anderson added that those living in England don’t benefit from the same provision as Scotland.

Mr Hayworth echoed this saying: “Whilst it has caused some difficulty being phased in, at least we as a community are benefitting from this whereas our sovereign neighbours are not.”