The planned introduction of a £25 per week charge for senior pupils who stay at the Janet Courtney hostel is making it harder for isles MSP Tavish Scott to argue against centralisation in Edinburgh, he claimed today.
Mr Scott has written to the SIC voicing his opposition to the charge, which had been due to be introduced next week for pupils from the isles and Sandness but has now been delayed, possibly until after the summer holidays, as revealed last week by The Shetland Times.
A Facebook campaign is receiving widespread support and at least one councillor intends, if re-elected in May, to try to overturn the decision to impose the charge. Mr Scott said he had been “inundated” by complaints from islanders and ex-pats.
Mr Scott said: “There are widespread concerns over this SIC decision. Many Shetlanders believe it amounts to blatant discrimination against the most far flung communities across the Islands.
“It certainly makes it harder for me to argue against centralisation by the Scottish government in Edinburgh. We are set to lose control over key local services as the Scottish government are taking control over aspects of education, fire and rescue and police.
“Yet Scottish ministers can now point to decisions here at home which disadvantage the outlying areas and islands of Shetland. That means Shetland’s ability to present a cogent argument to retain decision making powers in the islands is undermined.
“Charging for school hostels could see the creation of a two-tier education system. That cannot be in the interests of encouraging as many young Shetlanders as possible to achieve all they can at school. I hope that in the full assessment of the SIC’s budgetary situation by the new council in May this decision can be reversed.”