Almost 40 people attended a workshop in Bressay last night to plan a brighter future for the isle.
The community hopes to mount a rearguard action against public spending cuts by taking control of services that have fallen foul of council cuts.
A committee of volunteers has been formed to fight Bressay’s corner by exerting influence on the SIC and providing help for the local community.
Top of the wish-list would be a fixed link to Lerwick – although community leaders admit that is hardly a realistic ambition. More likely possibilities would be the re-opening of public toilets or the introduction of a community-run skip collection service.
The need for action has come into sharp focus following a decision by education officials to consult on closing the Bressay school because of a sharp drop in pupil numbers.
Folk in Bressay see merit in lobbying the council, should the school close, to retain the building so it can be re-opened if demand for primary education increases.
Recent public meetings have highlighted ferry service cuts and a shortfall in affordable housing as reasons for the island’s decline.
Alistair Christie-Henry, of the fledgling Bressay Development Association, said the strength of feeling ran across all age-groups in the isle.
“Thirty-six people turned up last night. The workshop was identifying the strengths and the weaknesses of what we have in the community. It recognised the difficulties in trying to come out to Lerwick given the lack of a fixed link, the cost of fares and the transport links,” he said.
“I think we had six volunteers last night. They will form a committee and will take forward the development of a constitution and their aims and objectives.
“Once we’ve done all that we can come up with a business plan – i.e., doing the things that we can do and dismissing the things that we can’t do.”
Mr Christie-Henry said the future of the school was still uppermost in many people’s minds.
He cited examples in other rural communities, such as Jura, where major services have come under control of a local co-operative.
But a more realistic aim for Bressay would be to persuade the council not to dispose of the school building if lessons in the isle come to an end.
“What we would try to do is prevent its permanent closure through lobbying to try to persuade the council to retain the facility and not dispose of it.
“That would keep the infrastructure preserved to see if we can grow the population to see if there would be a willingness for people to put their bairns back to the local school.”
For more on this story and Smirk’s view of the situation, see Friday’s Shetland Times.