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Isles parents vow to fight on

THE COMMUNITIES of Shetland’s north isles have vowed to gather cross party political support in a bid to overturn the decision to close the two small primary schools in Uyeasound and Burravoe.

They will urge the new Scottish education minister – likely to be named this week – to call in Tuesday’s decision by Shetland Islands Council.

The islanders hope to enlist the support of SNP list MSP Jean Urquhart, who stood for the Shetland seat in the Scottish election.

Burravoe parent council chairman Steven Brown said they already had the support of local MSP Tavish Scott.

They also expect backing from many Shetland councillors representing rural wards, and from schools and parent councils that might be under threat at a future date due to council cost cutting.

On Tuesday councillors ratified their earlier decision to close the two schools on Unst and Yell, and to keep the two mainland schools in North Roe and Sandness open to protect their local economy.

Their votes, described as “consistently inconsistent”, have angered parents in the north isles who see it as “an attack against island communities”.

Similar arguments were rolled out during the 90 minute debate on Tuesday as were heard at the services committee last week.

Councillor Betty Fullerton, who had chaired the first half of the services committee meeting during which the closure of Uyeasound and Burravoe were agreed, said she had been “very, very surprised” by the outcome of that meeting.

She said she could not see the basis for differentiating between any of the four schools, and voted to close all four on Tuesday.

After the meeting, Uyeasound parent council chairman Derek Jamieson said: “We will contact Scottish ministers to call in the decision. We still believe the process has to be done properly and we don’t believe the decision has gone the right way.

“It is shocking how inconsistent councillors’ approach towards the four schools were, but we are very happy that Sandness and North Roe schools are both being kept open.”

Mr Brown added: “We think we have a very good chance for the decision to be called in, because clearly councillors have not applied the logic of the Scottish legislation and consultation for rural schools.”

If the two schools do close in October, the council will save around £200,000 from its £42 million education budget.

Ten pupils from Uyeasound will have to travel to Baltasound junior high school for their education, while 11 Burravoe pupils will have to travel via a long and twisty single track road to Mid Yell.

Meanwhile the Baltasound school received a positive report from HM Inspectorate of Education on Tuesday. HMIe said it would not need to re-visit the school in connection with this inspection.

 

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Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021