Families are facing decisions over moving from their home, sacrificing their career or not having children as a result of nursery provision cuts in Stirlingshire, a campaign group say.
Parents say they were not consulted on Stirling Council’s decision to stop offering places for babies and toddlers at Killin Nursery.
The area has no registered childminders or private nurseries meaning the council-run nursery was a lifeline for many.
Local parents now say they face giving up work or leaving the area, with one pregnant mother saying she has already been forced to put her house on the market.
Georgie Pelly, a local mum and associate director for a forestry and natural capital consultancy moved to Killin with her family two years ago.
She said: “I’m expecting baby number two in November and not returning to work next year is just not an option for us, so we have put our house up for sale.
“We need certainty and sadly that means giving up our dream of living here. It makes me feel sick that we weren’t even consulted first.”
The decision to remove provision for new babies and toddlers was announced by the council in the budget published in March.
However, many families were left in the dark until they began requesting places for their children at the nursery next year and were informed there were none.
Killin Nursery is the only council-run nursery left in rural Stirlingshire which offered places for 0-2-year-olds across Killin, Lochearnhead, Strathyre, Crianlarich, Tyndrum, Balquidder, Callander, Fearnan, Lawers and Ardeonaig.
The nearest alternative nursery for many is a private nursery in Aberfeldy – a 45-minute drive from Killin.
Provisions have been retained for council-run nurseries in and surrounding Stirling city with Scottish Government funding to open new nurseries in Drymen and Braehead.
Parents have now launched a petition against the cuts while families held a demonstration in the local Breadalbane Park to show their support.
Over 600 people have now backed the petition which was presented to Stirling Council on Thursday at the headquarters in Viewforth.
Andy Aitken, chair of the Community Council in Killin, said: “This decision is short-sighted as it has a disproportionate impact on rural areas.
“We saw a much-needed increase in the number of families with young children moving here in recent years, but these same families are now being forced out, and those considering having children are having to rethink.
“This will have long-term consequences on rural communities across the area who rely on Killin Nursery.”
While parents had been paying fees of £4.50 per hour for 0 to 2-year-olds, they say no consultation was carried out on alternative changes such as an increased fee.
Eleanor Murray, a local foster parent, said “My youngest foster child was offered a full-time nursery place to help keep him at home with his birth parent while they were struggling for various reasons.
“The nursery gave him stability and a positive learning environment that has helped make him into the wonderful young man he is today. What will happen to other vulnerable children like him now that this isn’t on offer? It’s devastating.”
Stirling Council have advertised for more parents to become childminders, however a childminder can only take a maximum of six children under 12-years-old, of which only three can be under school age and only one can be under a year old.
Parents wishing to become childminders must also include their own children in these numbers.
The group have received support from a range of groups, including the campaign organisation Pregnant Then Screwed.
Their head of policy and campaign in Scotland, Carole Erskine said: “The decision by Stirling Council to make these cuts with no consultation from parents is appalling.
“This is a rural community with a growing and vibrant population that urgently require nursery provision for under twos to be continued. It is unacceptable that parents will have to travel to Aberfeldy, Perth or Stirling to access nurseries that offer the hours they need.
“The decision to end this service will have the biggest impact on women who will be forced to leave their jobs and will push more families into poverty, impacting the local economy. We would urge Stirling Council to meet with the local community as soon as possible to address this issue and find a solution.”
A Stirling Council spokesperson said: “Local authorities across Scotland have recently faced difficult decisions in making budget efficiencies across services.
“Killin Nursery’s current intake of children aged 0-2 who have been offered a nursery place but not yet started will retain their place. Children who turn two beyond October 2024 will not be offered a place.
“This change was agreed at the council’s budget-setting meeting in March this year when the local authority faced its biggest ever financial challenge with a budget gap of £17m.
“While childcare provision for those aged 0-2 is not statutory, we recognise the challenge this poses for families with young children looking for childcare in the area.
“Stirling Council continues to work in partnership with the Scottish Childminding Association (SCMA) to target recruitment of childminders in rural communities as an additional option for families. Killin is one such community with a joint recruitment campaign having taken place in the area this month.
“The Scottish Government has also recently announced plans to broaden eligibility to funded ELC to younger age groups. We await further information and detail of this but expect this expansion to begin in 2026.”