CAMPAIGNERS were celebrating last night following a council U-turn which scrapped plans to force pupils to walk up to 30 miles per week to school and back, writes Kirsteen Paterson.

Savings plans by South Lanarkshire Council would have removed free travel from youngsters living less than three miles from their high school, ending its established two-mile limit. However, council leader Eddie McAvoy yesterday revealed he had put the brakes on the plan following months of protests from thousands of parents.

Julie Marrs, one of those driving the campaign against the cuts, told The National: “I am absolutely thrilled that the school buses are safe, that children will not be expected to walk up to 30 miles a week in all weathers.

“This is huge relief to many families and shows that public opinion has won the day, forcing South Lanarkshire Council to listen to their constituents and protect the most vulnerable in society.”

The bus changes were put to councillors in August but were not set to be fully implemented until February. They will now be officially scrapped at an Executive Committee meeting on Wednesday, along with a raft of other controversial cuts.

These include a reduction in funding for psychological services and support for young people, as well as the closure of Larkhall’s Coalyard tea-room, kitchen and laundry, which provides learning and employment opportunities for people with additional support needs.

Councillors plan to balance the budget by using an underspend which includes money from improved council tax collection.

In a letter to parents, McAvoy – who leads the majority Labour group – said he had “instructed council officers to look for ways to fund a total change of policy”.

Margaret Ferrier MP, who joined protests before election to the seat of Rutherglen and Hamilton West, said: “This is an embarrassing U-turn for Labour, who have been forced to admit that their plans would have put children in danger.”

And Clydesdale MSP Aileen Campbell added: “It’s amazing what the prospect of an election can do to focus minds.”