Fighting for Skerries (Douglas Anderson)
We are a fragile community who have maintained our population despite various attempts to reduce it.
Through 30 years of fighting to keep our school secondary department open (six times in 12 years), our community have vehemently stated that Skerries would become an island of old people should this [school closure] go ahead.
This has not changed, except our old people are even older. We actually have four young families here, three new houses, five children in school and five children under five.
Two young couples have yet to start their families but intend to do so, ideally in this community. This is mainly because of the school in its entirety, along with an idyllic way of life for bringing up a family.
We would like the chance to flourish as a young vibrant community but we are constantly having to fight to get any assistance from the people who are supposed to look after all the islands of Shetland.
In our community the only large expenditure that the council has is in education and our ferry. We are a community that generates employment, mostly through our fishing fleet (the largest per capita in the UK) and organic salmon farm. These will all be affected if the secondary school closure is implemented.
We have already had our ferry service cut by around 40 per cent and this is having a considerable impact on our way of life, none of it positive. We do make a contribution to the Shetland economy and this should be taken into consideration when huge decisions like these are being made.
By having a high percentage of elderly people in our population, I cannot help but wonder what the cost will be to the SIC if the majority of the young families/couples leave Skerries, if the closure goes ahead.
The care for the elderly is, in the meantime, covered by the younger inhabitants. They may no longer be here if your plans are adopted.
The SIC will either have to import care workers to Skerries and house them or, as the elderly become unable to care for themselves, they will have to be placed in care homes or hospitals elsewhere. (Selling their properties certainly won’t fund their care as no-one will buy them).
I should imagine that the cost for that will far exceed the cost of keeping a secondary teacher and a classroom open in the isle. All councillors must look at the bigger picture for the sake of everyone.
We do not live in the Victorian age and in this era of children’s rights and the rights of parents there should be no “body” of people allowed to have the authority to rip families and communities apart for the sake of saving a few pounds.
Children should have the right to be nurtured and looked after by a loving family unit wherever possible, until ready to make their own way in the world. This to me is a far greater use of our money than to throw it at luxuries that people don’t need.
A happy family life and good health leads to happiness and contentment of all ages and in all communities; this should be the most important item on the council agendas. Not facilitating the luxuries which, given our need to save, we should be prepared to do without.
Douglas Anderson (and family)