I learned with astonishment that the SIC convener and vice-convener, along with other members of the council’s so-called leadership, have signed a motion seeking to undo the decision to transfer Scalloway School’s secondary 1-4 pupils to the Anderson High School.
The Full Council took this decision after an exhaustive consultation, extensive research and a democratic debate. The government’s Inspectors of Education backed it. I can understand why local members seeking re-election might wish to wreck this process, and why some senior retiring members might want to give them a leg up, in hopes of perpetuating the present regime beyond its absurd conclusion next May.
However, when these local members are also on the new SIC executive committee, surely their commitment to the good of Shetland as a whole must come first? If they will put ward interests first, it is open to them to resign from the executive. That would be the honourable course. To try to throw everything into confusion, less than a month before the first pupils are due to transfer to Lerwick, shows a contempt for democracy and an alarming disregard for the welfare of the pupils.
Council staff are already implementing the decision to transfer these pupils to the AHS, where they’ll join Scalloway’s secondary 5 and 6 students at one of the best schools in Britain. Anderson High teachers have been working hard to welcome the new intake. Scalloway parents who’ve been involved are, I’m told, agreeably surprised by what they’ve found at the AHS, after all the scare stories they’d been fed by protest organisers. This is a very good school, a happy school and a welcoming school. It does have room for the extra pupils. Admittedly, its buildings are not ideal but that’s why we’re building a new AHS at Lower Staney Hill – another democratic decision that some may still hope to sabotage.
Those executive committee members who’re aiding and abetting this wrecking motion are completely irresponsible. They haven’t suggested where else savings could come from, if Scalloway’s secondary department remains open. That’s because they either have no idea or dare not say. Of course, the savings would have to come from lower budgets for all Shetland schools, and from the closure of more rural primary schools.
What on earth will the Accounts Commission make of this? Almost a year after they investigated the council’s habitual indecision, lamentable lack of leadership and serial failure to implement democratic decisions, the auditors will see that the ruling group has learned no lessons and made no real changes. They will find that the council’s supposedly reformed government is but a cynical façade, covering up the same old shambles. In that case they and the new Scottish local government minister have a further option to bring this bunch of clowns to heel: they can send in commissioners to run the council. That is possible, although not yet probable. If it happens, we’ll see the resources for our schools slashed to national minimum standards. And there’ll be no-one to blame for the ensuing wreckage but witless councillors who haven’t got the gumption to make difficult decisions and stick by them.
Cllr Jonathan Wills