Calls made for better education deal
Council leaders say they are receiving an unfair deal from a £100 million Scottish government attainment fund.
Representatives from Shetland, Orkney and Western Isles authorities believe the fund, announced last month, is mainly being used to assist central belt areas.
Shetland Islands Council’s political leader, Gary Robinson, is also concerned that the SIC spends approximately £10 million more on education services than it receives from the Scottish government. He says that problem is forcing the council to spend money on education which should be used to help provide other services vital to the isles’ communities.
Orkney and Western Isles leaders are also said to be frustrated by similar funding gaps in their own areas. The issue has been raised at a summit in Orkney with education secretary, Angela Constance, as part of the Our Islands Our Future initiative.
Mr Robinson said the council should have been entitled to a much larger share of the attainment fund than was pledged. He said the money allocated to Shetland, intended to fund an attainment officer course at the SIC, amounts to “thousands” of pounds, rather than a fair share of the nine-figure sum.
“This is a £100 million fund that’s being announced for Scotland. A hundred million across 32 local authorities would work out on average about £3 million each,” he said.
“It wasn’t something that went through Cosla at all. It hasn’t gone through the formula that funding would usually go through.”
He said urban areas, such as Inverclyde, were the main areas to benefit from the scheme.
“A point that we were putting across to the secretary today is that we have high attainment in all of the islands, and in Shetland particularly but we’re not benefiting at all from this fund.
“What exacerbates that is the fact that we have a gap of almost £10million in the money we get from the Scottish government and what we actually spend on education.”
The issue has also been highlighted by isles MSP, Tavish Scott, who has called for the Scottish government to provide answers on its allocation of the funds.
Mr Robinson said he was pleased the issue was being raised by Shetland’s MSP. He added he had seen figures which suggested the gap in Orkney was over £6 million, whereas the Western Isles gap was in the teens of millions.
“The difficulty with that is because we are having to supplement spending on education, by rights that’s money that should be going on something else, like social care, transport, or other council services.
“It’s a significant amount of money, and I think it’s important we highlight that.”
Mr Scott said the Scottish government had got the fund badly mixed up.
“Sadly this SNP government has given the money to cities such as Glasgow and Dundee. Their policy is the wrong way round. It should target pupils and schools, not local authorities,” the MSP said.
“An attainment fund that helps expand early years education would be good for all areas of Scotland and that includes Shetland. So why is the SNP government choosing to ignore half of the country?
“Raising attainment standards is a target for every teacher and every school. Any new money would be very helpful. It is disappointing that the government do not recognise that need in Shetland as much as Glasgow.”