You will already know that students from Turkey, Sardinia, Latvia and Norway visited Shetland last week as part of a series of five-way student exchanges under Project Erasmus – funded in part by the European Union.
Brae High School was very proud to be taking the lead in hosting groups from the outer edges of Europe. Students, staff and parents worked tirelessly to overcome a series of difficulties with ever-shorter deadlines to make these visits a success, which in the event they were.
However I believe I ought to tell an otherwise hidden side to the visit by the Turkish contingent.
Teachers and parents hosting the Turkish visitors assembled at Sumburgh Airport on Saturday 21 Mar as part of the meet-and-greet processes.
It was therefore, somewhat dismaying to learn that our Turkish guests were unable to board the flight to Shetland, as planned, after arriving in Aberdeen.
They were held at Passport Control by UK Border Agency staff at Aberdeen airport.
They pointed out to those staff that they needed to proceed quickly to meet their connecting flight to Shetland – the only one that day.
UK Border Agency staff assured them that they would delay the flight to ensure they made their connection, once their documentation had been checked. After some considerable time, UK Border Agency cleared them for entry to UK.
Sadly this helpful assurance turned out to be completely bogus. By the time they were eventually released by the UK Border Agency, Flybe had already closed check-in for their flight.
Unsurprisingly UK Border Agency had – in reality – done nothing to assist.
The Turkish group also had to pay – unnecessarily – for a night’s accommodation at short notice in Aberdeen. They lost a day of their visit to Shetland.
This was bad – but it then got worse.
To add insult to injury – Flybe insisted that they had to pay again to travel on to Shetland.
I was outraged.
The letters to the media, local MPs and Flybe were ready in a moment – all Brae High School’s headmaster had to cry was “Havoc” and my dogs of war would be unleashed.
But he cried “Hold”; he had spoken to our redoubtable MSP, Tavish Scott, who had agreed to take up the Turks’ case with Flybe.
Meanwhile I stood like a greyhound straining in the slips.
To their great credit and to Tavish Scott’s great credit, Flybe agreed to waive the additional costs they had sought to impose. Even better, they met the extra accommodation costs the Turks had incurred.
I could not have hoped for a better outcome. The dogs of war were kennelled and pacified.
And if this all seems like Johnny-foreigner being inconvenienced – and who cares about that? I would point out that this project is part-funded by the EU. The EU is part-funded by my taxes. So I care because it’s about the use of my taxes. And for the same reason every other taxpayer in UK should also care.
Flybe and Tavish Scott will wish to know that this letter goes to Shetland News and The Shetland Times. I hope they publish the letter because Flybe and Tavish deserve the accolade.
Thank you Flybe. Thank you Tavish Scott.
Brae High School Parent Council