The scale of reduction in revenue support to the SIC from the Scottish government was less than feared. However, the task ahead for Alistair Buchan and his officials and councillors in dealing with what are testing times financially – given that year-on-year increases are normal – remains daunting. It is highly likely that the scale of the cuts next year will be greater given that by then the Holyrood election will have passed. The savings exercise that Mr Buchan has set in place (seeking 15 per cent when he expects the true size of cuts for 2011/12 to be five per cent) will have been designed with that in mind.
But if anyone in the SIC needs reminding of just how difficult it will be actually to impose cuts of this scale in a short space of time, and doubtless they don’t, they need only look at the furore surrounding the proposed closures of the Scalloway Junior High and Skerries secondary departments. The withdrawal of funding from almost any area of the public sector has direct consequences for people’s lives. The decisions on which services should be cut and to what extent and which, if any, should be left alone, are political – but good judgement is called for.
Regardless of the rhetoric about the consultation documents for closing Scalloway and Skerries being robust, there must be concern in the council that the educational case has not been made (in the eyes of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education) for moving children from Scalloway to the AHS and the likely economic impact on a small island community of just over 70 people. Equally, it is evident that if if school closures cannot be achieved, budgets in the remaining schools will be cut more deeply. This is only the beginning.