A bid by seven councillors to halt the closure of Scalloway School’s secondary department until the new Anderson High School is built is not competent and should be withdrawn immediately, according to a trio of rival members.
In a statement Gary Robinson, Jonathan Wills and Gussie Angus said the proposal, to be debated on 17th May, was causing unnecessary anxiety and stress for Scalloway pupils, parents and teachers.
They have called on convener Sandy Cluness and vice-convener Josie Simpson to end the uncertainty by withdrawing their support from the “notice of motion” and declaring it null and void. Mr Cluness and Mr Simpson signed it along with Iris Hawkins, Andrew Hughson, Robert Henderson, Laura Baisley and Alistair Cooper. Services committee chairwoman Betty Fullerton was involved in drafting the motion, although she did not sign it.
Cllr Robinson said: “The council’s administrative regulations clearly state that once a decision has been taken it cannot be revisited in this way.” He explained that the regulations forbid attempts to re-open a debate within six months, particularly when a proposal has already been defeated at a committee meeting and that decision later ratified by the Full Council. In December members voted 13-9 to go ahead with the closure, which the schools service estimates will save £707,000 a year.
Cllr Wills added: “As well as all the worry and confusion for pupils and parents, this is putting serious stress on teachers who’re due any day now to hear where they’ll be working when they leave Scalloway. The convener and vice-convener are undermining our staff when they ought to be supporting them. There’s no need to prolong this until 17th May. The convener’s job is to uphold the council’s constitution, not to subvert it. He can rule the motion out of order now and everyone can get on with the job of making the transition as smooth as possible for pupils and staff.”
Cllr Angus, the former chairman of the services committee, said: “I’m saddened that some members should seek to overturn a democratic decision of the council, taken after extensive consultation and debate. I question whether this procedure is competent.”
Council chief executive Alistair Buchan said he had been aware of the issue from the outset and was taking legal advice from the legal services department, which would be forthcoming this week after staff from the department were involved in administering the election in Shetland.
Part of the proposed reforms of council regulations includes the introduction of a two-thirds rule, which means that a motion such as that put forward by the seven would have to be approved by two-thirds of members to go through. Since no such mechanism currently exists for Shetland Islands Council, a simple majority would suffice on 17th May.