A West Lothian children's charity has launched a desperate fundraiser after its minibus was stolen and set on fire.

We earlier reported how Simply Play had appealed for the return of the vehicle after it was taken from outside Simpson Primary School in Bathgate last weekend.

But the childcare provider was devastated to be told the bus had been found stripped and burned out near Fauldhouse.

Charity bosses have now launched a £10,000 fundraiser to replace the vital bus.

Simply Play CEO, Raymond Branton said the minibus had been found stripped down and burnt out in the middle of nowhere and the culprits were "obviously professionals."

But he said the outpouring of support the charity has raise since the theft has been "overwhelming" after over £3000 was raised in just a few days.

He told the Courier: "The stripped everything, they stripped the engine, the gearbox, the wheels, anything they could take out, they took out. They even took the roof off it, which we assume is for scrap metal because its value is very high and then they've just dumped it and burned it so there was no forensics. They knew what they were doing.

"The police said often these people steal to order. These people don't care, they don't have any conscience in the first place."

Raymond said the charity is now fundraising to cover the insurance shortfall for a new bus and was having to pay for a hire vehicle in the meantime.

He continued: "We use it every day to pick up children after school, to ferry them around and on trips, so it's essential. We can't live without it.

"We've worked non-stop for the last three or four days to get a hire bus in the meantime that we're having to pay for, although McNicoll Van Hire have given us a really good discount on it.

"The bus is insured and we're waiting to hear back from the insurance company, but the insurance won't cover the cost of a replacement fully, plus there's the hire cost so we're fundraising through Gofundme just now for the shortfall and the response to that has been overwhelming.

"The support from people and the donations has been great and the only positive thing to come out of this."

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: "Police in West Lothian are investigating the theft of a vehicle from outside a school in Bathgate which was later found burnt out in Fauldhouse.

“The theft happened from outside the school on Leyland Road on Friday, 9 April, sometime after 5.30pm. The vehicle was then found burnt out on Monday evening, 12 April 2021, in Fauldhouse.

“Anyone who saw the vehicle between Friday, 9 April and Monday, 12 April, or has any information to assist police enquiries, should contact officers on 101 and quote incident number 1056 of 14 April.

"A report can be made to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

To donate to the fund, please click here.

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