University students from Shetland have travelled to Edinburgh to take their stand against school closures in the isles to the Scottish Parliament.
Yesterday at Holyrood they presented a “St Kilda mailboat” to education minister Michael Russell and Shetland MSP Tavish Scott, to highlight the risk school closures present to rural communities in Scotland.
In the past, St Kilda mail boats were used as a way for islanders to send information – letters were enclosed in a waterproof container and attached to a buoyant object.
The boat was chosen as a symbol of rural depopulation and clearances of the past and named “Da Slockit Licht” after a tune by the late fiddle player Tom Anderson.
The students believe that, in 2014, Shetland’s young rural people need the support of the Scottish government so they can continue to be educated in their own communities – the alternative is for children to begin, what campaigners describe as, long, slow commutes to Lerwick.
CURE – Communities United for Rural Education – organised the boat presentation and will continue to lobby Shetland councillors and the Scottish government to consider the implications of school closures in the future sustainability of rural com-munities.
CURE spokesman Gordon Thomson said: ‘‘We believe that if these school closure proposals are voted for by the Shetland Islands Council that this will set a precedent for the centralisation of secondary education across rural Scotland.
“We want our children to be educated in their own communities rather than have their education hindered by extensive commute times in all weathers as well as isles children having no choice other than living away from home, in a central hostel.”