Bressay folk must take initiative

The Bressay community is setting up a development association to try to prevent the isle slipping into “terminal decline”.

A steering group, with Alistair Christie-Henry as interim chairman, will meet on Monday to get the fledgling development association up and running.

Local councillor Michael Stout was it was important for the community to take the initiative, understanding problems and putting forward priorities.

He said the isle’s proximity to Lerwick, only five minutes away by ferry, was both a “blessing and a curse”, as the assumption was that it was easy to nip into town for work and education.

It was the threat of closure of the school, Mr Stout said, which had “sparked the sense the direction [Bressay was going in] was “not that attractive”.

Mr Christie-Henry agreed that the school was symbolic, and its possible closure would put the isle into “almost terminal decline”. It once had 48 pupils, he said, now it was down to three, with the nursery department already closed. Although 15 pupils were eligible to attend the school, 12 had opted for education in Lerwick.

The children would go there with their parents, who would travel to the town or beyond for work, even at an annual cost of £1,500 in ferry fares. Because Bressay is now a “non-producing” island, he said, with the former major employer, the gut factory, now needing only a handful of workers.

Although the isle’s population had held steady at around 380, it consists mainly of older folk. Younger folk had left: “We’ve lost the next generation.”

The development association would, he hoped, address the problems of ferry fares, employment and the school: “But it must be a commmunity effort, not an elected effort.”


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