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News / Skerries fury at school closure plans

THE PEOPLE on the tiny island of Skerries turned out in force on Monday night to dissuade Shetland Islands Council from closing its secondary school, the smallest in the land with just three pupils.

The council is currently consulting on closing two secondary departments in Skerries and Scalloway, which has 116 pupils, as part of their desperate attempt to control its education budget, which at £38 million is the largest per pupil in Scotland.

More than half of the island’s 80 inhabitants turned out for the meeting in which they warned councillors and officials that Skerries faced “instant depopulation” if the school closed.

This is the fourth time this decade the island has had to campaign to save its school, though this time the council is more determined than ever to save money.

However islanders rubbished the council’s calculation that closing the school would save £62,000, arguing that it would cost other council departments far more coping with the social and economic impact.

Parent Ryan Arthur said they had examined the figures and discovered the actual saving would be £38,000. “They would save one tenth of one per cent of the education budget. Is it worth it for the destruction of an entire community?” he asked.

Mr Arthur, who has two children at the secondary, warned that young families would leave the island and that would tip it over the edge.

The home help team would cease to function forcing elderly people into care homes on the mainland, the fire crew would be disbanded making it impossible to run the airport and the first aid team would be undermanned.

There would also not be enough people to run the salmon farm and processing factory and the local fishing boats on which the economy depends.

Islanders were especially annoyed that only five councillors turned up to a meeting discussing the future of their community.

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“There are 22 councillors and only five turned up to the meeting and yet they are going to vote on something that will affect our lives for ever more when many of them have never even set foot on the island. I find it very disappointing that they couldn’t be bothered to come,” Mr Arthur said.

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