SHETLAND MSP Tavish Scott has thrown his weight behind parents in Northmavine trying to keep their primary schools open on the eve of three local public meetings.
The former Liberal Democrat leader said the area was on the rebound with young families moving in that would boost school rolls in the next few years.
“It seems to me that there must be something in the water that’s affecting Northmavine because there is nigh on a baby boom,” he said, after touring the catchment area of closure threatened Urafirth primary school on Friday.
Parents joined local councillor Andrea Manson in explaining to Scott their concerns about Shetland Islands Council’s proposals to close the Urafirth primary, purpose-built 21 years ago, which is set to see its school roll almost triple from nine pupils today to around 25 in five years.
“I think events have moved on since these proposals were made,” the MSP said.
“It’s very clear school rolls are rising and very clearly the figures show that. There are jobs to be had, people are moving back with families or starting families and I get a very strong feeling that Northmavine is moving positively forwards.
“The council usually takes a very positive attitude towards supporting our remote communities and that’s the kind of approach we should be taking.”
Scott said the Urafirth parent council was still waiting for answers to a series of questions raised by the proposals, which suggest they would save £190,000 by closing Urafirth and North Roe and transporting all Northmavine pupils to Ollaberry.
Having driven through the area on Friday, he said it was clear that some five year old children would be facing bus journeys of around an hour to Ollaberry, rather than the 40 minute maximum suggested by education officials.
On finance, he said the council should be able to answer questions about the transport cost implications of their proposals, and explain why they had not included the Urafirth primary wind turbine in their calculations about energy efficiency.
“Urafirth isn’t just saving money, it’s earning money for the school estate,” he said.
He added that the three parent councils in Northmavine were united in their desire to keep all of the primary schools open.
Three public meetings are being held over the next four days in Northmavine to discuss the proposals with council representatives.
They are at:
North Roe and Lochend hall at 7pm on Monday 5 May
Hillswick hall at 7pm on Wednesday 7 May
Ollaberry hall at 7pm on Thursday 8 May.
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