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Scott opposes hostel charges

SHETLAND MSP Tavish Scott has joined calls for the planned £25 a week charge for island pupils boarding at Lerwick’s Anderson High School to be dropped.

Shetland Islands Council proposed the new charge to raise between £25,000 and £40,000 a year as part of its drive to reduce spending by £15 million in the coming financial year.

Mr Scott said on Tuesday that he had been inundated by opposition to the charge for senior pupils from island communities and the remote village of Sandness to stay at the Janet Courtney hostel during the school term.

He has now written to the council’s schools service formally expressing his views after being contacted by “parents, pupils and expat Shetlanders”.

“There are widespread concerns over this SIC decision. Many Shetlanders believe it amounts to blatant discrimination against the most far flung communities across the islands,” he said.

He added that such moves made it harder for him to argue the case against centralisation within the Scottish Parliament.

“We are set to lose control over key local services as the Scottish government are taking control over aspects of education, fire and rescue and police.

“Yet Scottish ministers can now point to decisions here at home which disadvantage the outlying areas and islands of Shetland. That means Shetland’s ability to present a cogent argument to retain decision making powers in the islands is undermined.

“Charging for school hostels could see the creation of a two tier education system. That cannot be in the interests of encouraging as many young Shetlanders as possible to achieve all they can at school.

“I hope that in the full assessment of the SIC’s budgetary situation by the new council in May this decision can be reversed.”