Rural areas are vital (Alan Robertson)

Next Tuesday our councillors will vote on the future of four rural primary schools.

These schools are in some of the most fragile communities in Shetland. They have been identified as fragile due to a lack of services, the distance residents have to travel to access services and employment and the risk of irreversible decline.

Should the council decide to remove more services from these fragile communities then their future sustainability will be seriously threatened and population decline inevitable.
In voting to retain the three pupil secondary department of the Skerries school the council has shown that it can support Shetland’s rural communities but it would be hypocritical to now vote to close rural primary schools.

We have been told many times during the closure consultation that Shetland’s primary education spending (£7,523 08/09) is far higher than the Scottish average (£4,833 08/09). This is correct [but] it is also to be expected when the average includes cities like Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

When Shetland is compared to the only other comparable areas Orkney and the Western Isles we find that Shetland has the lowest spending compared to £8,169 (08/09) in Orkney and £8,839 (08/09) in the Western Isles.

The council should stop removing services from fragile rural communities and look elsewhere for financial savings. Start looking at budgets that are not already below the comparable average. Councillors please vote for rural Shetland.

Alan Robertson


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