Fighting for Skerries (Douglas Anderson)

We are a fragile community who have maintained our population despite various attempts to reduce it.

Through 30 years of fighting to keep our school secondary department open (six times in 12 years), our community have vehemently stated that Skerries would become an island of old people should this [school closure] go ahead.

This has not changed, except our old people are even older. We actually have four young families here, three new houses, five children in school and five children under five.

Two young couples have yet to start their families but intend to do so, ideally in this community. This is mainly because of the school in its entirety, along with an idyllic way of life for bringing up a family.

We would like the chance to flourish as a young vibrant community but we are constantly having to fight to get any assistance from the people who are supposed to look after all the islands of Shetland.

In our community the only large expenditure that the council has is in education and our ferry. We are a community that generates employment, mostly through our fishing fleet (the largest per capita in the UK) and organic salmon farm. These will all be affected if the secondary school closure is implemented.

We have already had our ferry service cut by around 40 per cent and this is having a considerable impact on our way of life, none of it positive. We do make a contribution to the Shetland economy and this should be taken into consideration when huge decisions like these are being made.

By having a high percentage of elderly people in our population, I cannot help but wonder what the cost will be to the SIC if the majority of the young families/couples leave Skerries, if the closure goes ahead.

The care for the elderly is, in the meantime, covered by the younger inhabitants. They may no longer be here if your plans are adopted.

The SIC will either have to import care workers to Skerries and house them or, as the elderly become unable to care for themselves, they will have to be placed in care homes or hospitals elsewhere. (Selling their properties certainly won’t fund their care as no-one will buy them).

I should imagine that the cost for that will far exceed the cost of keeping a secondary teacher and a classroom open in the isle. All councillors must look at the bigger picture for the sake of everyone.

We do not live in the Victorian age and in this era of children’s rights and the rights of parents there should be no “body” of people allowed to have the authority to rip families and communities apart for the sake of saving a few pounds.

Children should have the right to be nurtured and looked after by a loving family unit wherever possible, until ready to make their own way in the world. This to me is a far greater use of our money than to throw it at luxuries that people don’t need.

A happy family life and good health leads to happiness and contentment of all ages and in all communities; this should be the most important item on the council agendas. Not facilitating the luxuries which, given our need to save, we should be prepared to do without.

Douglas Anderson (and family)




Add Your Comment

    • September 30th, 2013 17:15

    I agree 100% with Ms Gorman. I fully understand why the councillors need to save money, but we are at serious risk of destroying remote communities, not just in the North Isles and Bressay, but in the more remote parts of the mainland. We need to have a vision of what we want Shetland to be like and we need to have a strategy to achieve that vision. In my view, Shetland Charitable Trust has a role to play in achieving that vision and should be planning to divert spending to support these communities at risk.

    Alan Skinner
    New House

  • Mellany Gorman

    • September 30th, 2013 20:10

    this letter was sent by Mr & Mrs Douglas Anderson and family (scattered throughout Shetland and further afield and all educated at Skerries School) Seelaberg, Out Skerries. Not me.

  • John Anderson

    • September 30th, 2013 22:44

    A secondary education needs a lot more than ‘a teacher and a classroom’. So done properly it costs a lot and children gain a lot from it, not just by access to the range and choice on the curriculum but the chance to gain social skills mixing with their peers. There is also an excellent hostel in Lerwick to provide a safe and supportive environment. The Fair Isle residents have benefitted from this. I hope the Council is not pressured into continuing secondary education in Skerries by this kind of doomsday scaremongering, for it is not in the interests of the young people, who have a lot to gain by being allowed to participate in larger schools.

  • Marina Thomason

    • October 1st, 2013 21:58

    @ John Anderson, so many things not factually correct in your comments that I’m not sure where to begin.
    The Rural Commission spent 9 months looking at rural education and concluded that there is no evidence that pupils taught in small schools are educationally disadvantaged and emphasised the need for local authorities to consider the importance of the school within the community, something you are not doing by purely focusing on the educational aspect of rural schools.
    If you have not already done so I would urge you to read the report of the public meeting held in Skerries on the 20th of September.

  • Robert Duncan

    • October 7th, 2013 17:50

    I have to wonder after reading all the Skerries stuff in the paper on Friday, did the journalists involved make any effort to put across the other side of the argument?

    The piece about Mr Arthur and his young family, in particular, could have done with comment from somebody at the council, or at least some reference to the consultation report that is already in the public domain. Surely some of his points were already addressed there?

    Seemed like fairly lazy journalism to make things so one sided.

  • John Tulloch

    • October 7th, 2013 22:38

    Isn’t it the role of the media to challenge the ruling authorities, especially, when defending small communities against the mighty is called for?

  • Robert Duncan

    • October 8th, 2013 21:49

    Mr Tulloch, the point was that many of the points had already been refuted by the council/education department. They didn’t challenge that refutation, they simply ignored its existence. Not a very effective way to raise the level of debate, in my view.

  • John Tulloch

    • October 9th, 2013 10:02

    Mr Duncan,

    Vaila Wishart is quoted in the article, does she not have something to do with the SIC education dept.?

    The article mentions that the report to be presented to the council covers various points. So, why don’t you challenge the refutation of the Skerries folk’s points if you think that’s called for, you seem to be well-informed about it all?

  • Robert Duncan

    • October 13th, 2013 18:46

    John, I do not recall exactly what the quote from Councillor Wishart said but I’m fairly sure it didn’t address anything that was said. As commented on elsewhere, my issue was with factual inaccuracies going unchallenged, such as the claim that the council would not publish exam results from Skerries – they did.

  • David Spence

    • November 12th, 2013 11:57

    I would be intrigued to know if the Foula School is still on the go, and if it is, how can the Council justify keeping this school open (where I believe there is only 1 pupil) but closing a much more deserving school, this of the Outer Skerries, whose contribution outweighs anything that the island of Foula contributes. I would say close Foula School and keep the Skerries School open.


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