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Labour MSP Duncan McNeil is to be reported to the Scottish Parliament over alleged inappropriate and discriminatory comments he made following the tragic deaths of the three Riggi children.

The news follows comments from Mr McNeil who claimed that SNP inaction over home-schooling legislation may have placed the Riggi children in greater danger.

Mr McNeil’s original comments brought furious responses, with the Scottish government calling them insensitive and politically motivated.  Home-schooling organisation Schoolhouse labeled the Labour MSP a ‘grave-robber’ and wrote to him demanding he make an apology.

However the Labour MSP has now provoked further fury after giving a statement to his local newspaper The Greenock Telegraph in which he suggested that the home-schooling system could be exploited and insisted that he would not apologise for his original remarks.  Mr McNeil denied receiving any correspondence from Schoolhouse.

Schoolhouse has called the latest comments from Mr McNeil ‘offensive’ to the home-schooling community and has accused him of using the tragedy in order to “hog headlines” and of “squeezing every last drop of political capital” out of the Riggi tragedy.

Schoolhouse said:
"By steadfastly refusing to apologise for his inappropriate, insensitive and politically motivated attack on a minority group in the wake of the Riggi family tragedy, and now seemingly redoubling his efforts to hog headlines over the issue,  he is clearly intent on squeezing every last drop of political capital out of a desperately sad human tragedy.

"Anyone who watched Pasquale Riggi’s dignified interview last week in which he paid tribute to his murdered children could not have failed to be moved by the man’s loss, and Schoolhouse deplores the unseemly behaviour of Mr McNeil whose propriety appears to have deserted him entirely."

The organisation confirmed that a letter was sent to Mr McNeil on 9th August and have also confirmed that they will lodge a complaint with the Scottish Parliament over Mr McNeil’s conduct.

The text of the letter sent by Schoolhouse to Duncan McNeil is reproduced below:

Mr Duncan McNeil MSP
The Scottish Parliament
Edinburgh
EH99 1SP


Dear Mr McNeil

I write with reference to an article published in the Sunday Post on 8 August 2010 in which you are attributed with making deeply offensive, insensitive and entirely inappropriate remarks about home education in the wake of the recent Riggi tragedy, and in which you further sought to mislead the public regarding the law relating to elective home education in both England and Scotland.

At the request of Schoolhouse members, I invite you to retract your remarks in full and issue a public apology for causing immense distress to the Scottish home education community and, most especially, to the friends and family of the children who have died in such appalling circumstances. In seeking to make political capital out of this tragedy, we believe you have engaged in conduct most unbecoming of an elected member of the Scottish Parliament and, in the absence of a full and public apology, we are minded to make a formal complaint via the presiding officer.

Your contention that tighter regulation and monitoring of home education might have prevented this tragedy is frankly astonishing. It would therefore be useful if you could enlighten the home education community as to what sort of draconian measures you would wish to see exclusively imposed on this minority group of law abiding citizens, and how, exactly, such measures might have changed the outcome in this sad and profoundly shocking case.

I further invite you to publish a statement of apology for issuing false information about the law pertaining to home education in England. May I remind you that no changes were made to the English legislation following recommendations in the Badman report, all of which were thrown out prior to the May election. The contents of that flawed report, including the ‘statistics’ you have so cynically misused to smear a minority community, have been discredited by professional analysts and were roundly rejected by the UK Parliament.

You should be aware that it is parents, not the state, who have the legal duty to provide their children with a suitable education, and that statutory guidance issued by the Scottish Government sets out the responsibilities of local authorities in relation to home education. If you wish to familiarise yourself with the law and guidance, you will find the relevant information on the Schoolhouse website.

Schoolhouse encourages Scottish local authorities to provide us with up to date information about their policies on home education and we have created a dedicated web page for each council, but we have so far been unable to elicit any such information from Inverclyde Council which serves your own home educating constituents. Perhaps you would be good enough to look into this on their behalf?

I look forward to your response in early course.

Yours sincerely

Schoolhouse Secretary

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