As a Shetlander living in Argyll I have been following the arguments relating to the proposed closure of Out Skerries School secondary department and have been appalled at the travesty of democracy in Shetland Islands Council (SIC), which led to closure being accepted by first, the education committee and subsequently, by the full council.
It was clear to me that the arguments in favour of closure are weak in comparison to the potential damage, which may be done to that precarious community whose 80 members reportedly contribute over £5 million to the Shetland and therefore, Scottish, economies.
Out Skerries is an ageing community, which cannot afford to lose young people; rather, they need more and indeed, have had many more in the past.
The photograph of the school in former days accompanying the associated online petition shows that, while there are now only six pupils attending, there were at least 27 at one time and it seems to me, given the extraordinary productivity of this little community and the technology available nowadays, that they deserve to be supported in their efforts to retain and attract more young people as opposed to having their community torn down by council ferry cuts and closing their secondary school.
I believe the SIC’s approach to Out Skerries to be misguided, built as it is on the false premise that a marginal, debatable, improvement in quality of education is more important than family and community well-being, both social and economic.
The closure proposal claims a saving of £74,000 pa, however an increase/influx of young people to anything like the numbers suggested by the petition photograph could result in doubling or even, trebling, Out Skerries’ £5+ million economic contribution to the Shetland/Scottish economy.
I very much welcome the government’s intention to amend the 2010 Act, in particular, to install a “presumption against closure of a rural school” and to prevent a repetition of failed closure attempts for at least, five years.
It follows that I deplore SIC’s apparent determination to push through as many closures of rural schools as possible before your amendment becomes law.
In fact, the Out Skerries community has faced six closure attempts in the last twelve years. Is it any wonder young people move away and are reluctant to return or move in?
I hope you will call in this closure decision and overturn it and, respectfully, urge you to do that.
I trust these points are of interest and look forward to hearing your decision.
John G Tulloch
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