There could soon be a platoon of money-raising school dinner bloggers, following a meeting between the father of NeverSeconds author, 9-year-old Martha Payne, and the leader of Argyll & Bute Council.
However, Holyrood has learned that Martha has herself decided not to continue her own particular blog, and will instead be offering advice and encouragement to other school children who want to start similar initiatives and raise money for Mary’s Meals.
Following the meeting with Martha’s father, Dave Payne, and two other councillors representing Mid-Argyll, and ahead of a full meeting of the council on Monday 25 June, Argyll & Bute Council leader Roddy McCuish told Holyrood that “questions will be asked” about the way the initial blog ban was handled.
McCuish said that the episode had been a “political disaster” for Argyll & Bute Council, particularly so soon after the formation of the new administration. “I’m a big believer in common sense, and things being sorted out through people talking to each other, but the whole thing became a lesson in how not handle the media.” He added that he had already sought to make contact with Payne before the headline in the Daily Record that prompted the ban, to follow up on concerns raised by NeverSeconds and with school staff. However, two prior scheduled meetings to meet Martha’s father had to be cancelled due to outside circumstances – once by McCuish, and once by Payne – and a third had been planned when the ban was handed down.
McCuish also said that he had met with teachers and canteen staff at Lochgilphead Primary School to discuss the matter with them before the story was carried in the Daily Record.
He said that he believed that everyone involved had acted in good faith, and that the initial ban was instituted purely out of a desire to protect all parties, adding that the official that put the ban in place did not consult with any elected members, and was unaware that the council leader was in touch with Dave Payne directly.
Praising Martha for the vast sum she has raised for charity – over £90,000 and counting against an initial target of £7,000 – McCuish said: “At least some good has come of this.”