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Scalloway parents urge folk to fight on

THE PARENTS council of a Shetland secondary school facing closure next year have asked local people to lobby the Scottish government to have the decision called in.

Shetland Islands Council voted this month to close Scalloway junior high school as part of its Blueprint of Education review, which aims to reduce the authority’s £42 million schools budget.

The decision shocked the community, which has fought hard to keep the 120 pupil secondary open and claimed the council’s consultation process was fatally flawed. The same meeting voted to keep open Scotland’s smallest secondary department, the three pupil school on Out Skerries.

Scalloway parent council said this week it had already won cross party support amongst highlands and islands MSPs.

SNP, Tory and Labour MSPs have joined Shetland Liberal Democrat member Tavish Scott in calling for the government to re-examine the decision under the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010.

The parent council has submitted an “extensive document” highlighting flaws in the consultation and the failure of the council to demonstrate educational benefit; a similar submission is expected from the Scottish Rural Schools Network.

The government has until 18 January to decide whether to approve the council’s decision. Last week education secretary Mike Russell called in four proposed school closures in the western isles, saying Western Isles Council (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar) had failed to consider alternatives to closure, the effect on the local community and transport arrangements.

Parent council spokeswoman Karen Eunson said she believed ministers’ decision had been influenced by the response they had received from the local community and urged local people to make their feelings known to the government.

“There is still a mood of disbelief, shock and frustration and a lot of folk have been in touch asking what they can do,” Ms Eunson said.

“Rather than sitting at home feeling frustrated and getting angry, we would encourage folk to do something, to put in their own request for a call in and to get in touch with the list MSPs.”

The deadline for submissions is 28 December and information about how to contact the government and highlands and islands MSPs is available at www.savescallowayschool.org.

SIC education spokesman Bill Manson said: “Our proposal has been submitted to Scottish ministers and I have every confidence that they will treat this dispassionately and consider it against the usual criteria.”

Next year the SIC will consult on proposals to close five primary schools in Uyeasound, Burravoe, North Roe, Olnafirth and Sandness.