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Letters / A vote to mothball is a vote for closure

The proposed mothballing of Skeld, and until recently, Cullivoe primary schools will have been met with a sense of dread across rural Shetland, awakening bad memories of previous campaigns to prevent school closures.

To mothball appears innocuous, evoking ideas of protection for future use and preservation of, in this case, a building, a service and a school community but this is far from the reality. If a school is mothballed it is very unlikely that it will ever reopen, small island schools being the possible exception.

If a child starts education in a school that is then mothballed, to move the child again, back to their original school were it to reopen would be very disruptive for the child. Parents are most likely to leave their child to finish primary education at their new school which would result in pupil numbers being too low to reopen the mothballed school.

The importance of schools to small communities should never be underestimated, this puts unacceptable pressure on parents to choose between their children and their community. The wider implications of this policy do not appear to have been considered.

Will schools really be opened and closed year to year depending on numbers? How many times should a child be expected to move schools in their seven years of primary education? What are the wider impacts of this policy? How does this policy encourage families to live and work in rural communities? There is a desire to grow the Shetland population, will this help or hinder? How long would a school stay mothballed before being permanently closed?

If this policy is allowed to continue it will eventually lead to the mainland of Shetland having only six primary schools. We often hear our councillors complaining that The Scottish Government is centralising services and power to Edinburgh and the Central Belt, that is what is happening here in a local context.

Removing services from outlying areas will put more pressure on the centre. Lerwick and its environs are already struggling especially for housing, this policy will only create more demand.

When councillors vote on mothballing schools, they should ask themselves if the implications of this policy have be thoroughly explored? They should realise that a vote to mothball is a vote for closure.

Alan Robertson


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