Catch Five Eleven (Jonathan Wills)

I’m sure the Shetland Insular Cabal, the undeclared political group that meets in secret and now effectively controls Shetland Islands Council, will have thought this through before their famous vote on Guy Fawkes Day that scuppered the council’s education policy and torpedoed our financial planning.

But I’m a slow learner and it’s only just occurred to me: if we do keep open more schools than we actually need, then we can’t cover the resulting deficit in the education budget by reducing staff and materials for all schools; if we did so we’d be providing a lower standard of education for all pupils; and we can’t do that because it would be counter to our declared policy.

Some folk may imagine we can make the necessary economies by stealth: slowly cutting off resources from small schools that are neither educationally nor financially viable, so the parents will eventually vote with their feet, or perhaps with their all-weather, 4×4 radials. But this is not possible either because it would discriminate against the pupils in those schools, whose education currently receives a massive subsidy at the expense of pupils at (to take two random examples) Bell’s Brae and Sound; and we’re bound by our own policy, and by the government’s, to “gonnae no dae that”.

So it seems we’re stuck with continuing to fund all our schools at the present level, apart from the relatively small cuts we can make by “efficiency savings” that don’t affect the quality of service. Other parts of the local public services will have to find the savings that education can no longer make. I call this Catch 5/11.

The cabal, of course, will already have worked out a detailed plan to deal with this conundrum, this snood, this boorach. They just haven’t told us what it is yet because, well, because it’s a secret and we’re not in their gang, so there …

All we can do as outsiders (and that term now includes several senior elected office bearers) is to speculate on what the new masters of the local authority’s budget may have up their sleeves.

Will they, I wonder, propose some or all of the following, in their cunning plan to bring the council’s spending back to a level it can afford and to preserve its reserves, which in the year 2000 stood at almost £500 million and are now down to just over £200 million:
• Sell one of the large Yell Sound ferries and run a single-ferry shuttle service, with one of the old, smaller boats to cover breakdowns and maintenance periods. Tough on the North Isles truckers, but good news for remote rural shops and a big saving for the rest of us.
• Close the Unst care centre. And while we’re at it, put the charges up a bit at the others. Not popular but it would save a bunch of money.
• Make some big cuts in council subsidies to rural buses. Let country folk drive their own cars or hitch-hike. Ouch!
• Close down the council’s economic development unit. After all, we’re repeatedly told that keeping small schools open will save the economy of various country districts. So why do we need it? Let the market decide.

All of these measures would be very unpalatable and I don’t advocate any of them but no doubt those who do want to keep tiny schools open, when it would be cheaper and better to amalgamate some of them, will have their own, much more popular, proposals ready as the budget planning for 2015/16 and beyond proceeds.

Presumably they’re waiting until after New Year to tell us what’s in their new financial master plan for the years to 2020. After all, they wouldn’t want to make themselves unpopular with the voters by spoiling their Christmas, would they? Nor, indeed, before the council elections in May 2017?

And how, I wonder, will they explain to the electorate why the council has made no real progress on a more rational and “best value” school system despite spending about a million pounds since 1997 on successive failed attempts to do so? “Gutless” is a harsh word but Da Flea was right.

Meanwhile, what about all those CURE posters that deface the roadsides? Yes, I know it stands for Completely Undermining the Rest of Education, but do they have planning permission? If not, what are those busybodies in planning doing about it?

If nothing, why don’t we close down planning and just hire independent advice when we need it? Now there’s a seriously popular idea that would save money, not to mention paper (to judge by the 166-page report on a temporary flue pipe in Sandwick that recently went before the planning board).

Yours, with bated breath …

Jonathan Wills
Independent councillor,
Lerwick South ward
Town Hall,


Add Your Comment
  • Johan Adamson

    • November 25th, 2014 16:02

    Its a funny thing, but we seemed to be able to finance education completely when we had more bairns. You would think, there being less of them now that the baby boom years are over, that they would have the best of things. But its not the case, we have to squabble over every penny and how it is divided. Its such a shame.

    I think there are other ways of saving money apart from shutting schools, or any of the things above. You need to think about reducing costs all over the place (even more), sharing more services between departments and giving up the investments in private income producing businesses that actually don’t make any money, but just justify more staff, but which might just turn a profit, in private hands. But Im sure some of this, and some better ideas, were suggested at the public budget setting meetings there have been around the county.

    • Robert Duncan

      • November 26th, 2014 0:09

      Falling school rolls means falling funding from central government. There are also various other factors.

      The fall in school aged population hasn’t coincided with a fall in overall population, because we are an aging society, meaning higher costs at the other end of the spectrum. That means education cannot take as big a slice of the pie as it used to.

      There are also various changes to curriculum and education requirements, and it’s a lot more difficult to have teachers covering multiple subjects now. Whereas once you might have had one teacher delivering all sciences, that is incredibly difficult now due to teachers employment conditions and the stance of the GTCS.

      I think the suggestion that we “reduce the costs all over the place” fails to recognise the scale of cuts that a) have already been made and b) still need to be made. We are still burning up reserves that should rightly belong to future generations. I agree you can’t “throw the baby out with the bath water” but if we continually shy away from difficult decisions that baby isn’t going to have much hot water for bathing in its future years.

      • John Tulloch

        • November 26th, 2014 9:51

        @Robert Duncan,

        As the omniscient sage of all things council, perhaps, you will now answer the questions I asked you before, to which you
        Failed to respond.

        In he context of the SIC’s claim that they receive £20 million pa less from the Scottish government than it costs to provide Shetland education:

        Q1. Is the money received based on the number of pupils times the average cost per pupil in Scotland and, if not, how is the figure arrived.

        Q2. Do Orkney and the Western Isles also have similar deficits in government funding provision?

        Q3. If they don’t have such deficits, why not, given that both their primary and secondary costs per pupil are virtually identical to those in Shetland?

        Answers, please.

      • Robert Duncan

        • November 26th, 2014 10:36

        I don’t recall you ever asking me this before, and I do not have precise info to hand to answer. I have never purported to know more than is made publicly available than the council and by national authorities.

        My strong assumption would be that the answers are:

        1. No, not quite, as Shetland does receive higher funding than a simple assessment of total pupils times Scottish average cost. Certainly at primary level, there is GAE to boost it, and generally speaking Shetland is considered “very rural” which bumps up funding in certain areas. I don’t know the precise formula, but it certainly is based to some extent on our total pupil roll.

        2. I would very much assume they do and can see no reason they would not.

      • Robert Duncan

        • November 26th, 2014 10:37

        “Failed to respond” is fairly strong wording where “may have missed” would be more appropriate. Let’s not turn this into a playground squabble.

      • John Tulloch

        • November 26th, 2014 11:19


        I asked Jonathan wills the same questions and didn’t get a response, from him, either, so I’m sure you’ll forgive me if I’ve become a tad impatient.

        You say you don’t know the answer to those questions.

        Don’t you think it would be useful to have such knowledge, prior to embarking on a half-baked pet project which has failed because it was based on seriously false claims made by those arguing for school closures?

        Don’t you think people will want to know the answers to these questions, given the SIC’s lamentable record, so they may be reassured that this claim of underfunding by the Scottish government is not, itself, yet another figment of closure proponents’ imaginations?

        Don’t you think this information should be in the public domain?

      • Robert Duncan

        • November 26th, 2014 13:46

        I’m just an ordinary voter like you, John, I haven’t embarked on any “pet project”. That I don’t have exact answers does not mean councillors nor council officials do. It may be in the public domain but is not something I remember reading. I think now that the claim has been made that, yes, it would be of interest to see it in more detail. It seems a fairly simple calculation though so I don’t see much room for error.

        (Before the inevitable remark, I don’t think the cost per pupil figures are anywhere near as simple as either side likes to make out)

    • Johan Adamson

      • November 26th, 2014 9:15

      I dont see why education cant take as much pie as it used to, just because of an ageing population. The population might be ageing but they are also more fit and healthy than the old folk before, and we are already getting used to the fact that there will be nothing left for us, and we will have to work well into our 70s. But it is not a competition between the old and the young. It is about setting priorities and having a vision for education. It neednt cost more.

      The GTCS need to have a re-think then and address how they are going to do things in rural education.

      I dont think they (the councillors) were shying away from difficult decisions. I think they were recognising that the electorate have no appetite for school closures and that priorities need to be reset. We have not heard that much on the total SIC cuts made to date, so therefore it still seems that the council is bigger and looming larger than any other council in the UK with a lot of managers and other staff and a lot of centralised services in Lerwick. Why does JW pick on country services instead of the town in his letter? Could you amalgamate the primaries in Lerwick into the new AHS (as suggested below)?

      • Robert Duncan

        • November 26th, 2014 10:49

        I disagree on the difficult decisions. They have still taken the easy options – if they truly cared what the electorate thought they’d have halted these consultations long ago and pursued other avenues. Instead they’ve wasted officials time with their non-decisions, most in the knowledge that they were never actually going to say yes to closure proposals. They had the power to stop these consultations long ago and did nothing.

        To then “play the hero” at the last minute is just a lazy act of populism. I don’t agree with all Jonathan Wills says but at least he has the guts to stand up for what he believes, rather than constantly worrying if people will still like him.

      • Robert Duncan

        • November 26th, 2014 10:51

        I’d be very surprised if amalgamating Lerwick primaries saved any money, since both are already very sustainable schools and require very little transport for children to get there.

      • Johan Adamson

        • November 26th, 2014 11:48

        But they must save on some teaching staff and building costs … Think we have been here before on these arguments.

      • Johan Adamson

        • November 26th, 2014 11:59

        If councillors are able to sense the way the wind is blowing and vote accordingly then that takes a real nose for the job as well as neither courage nor convictions. I am sure that you cant say that all of them have no courage to stand up for what they believe in or have convictions. I think it actually must have taken a lot of courage to stand up to Wills et al and incurring the wrath of the officials in not standing firm on the cuts.

      • Robert Duncan

        • November 26th, 2014 13:56

        I’m not sure how teaching staff would be saved. Sound and Bells Brae each have 2 classes for every year group and I’m fairly sure all of those are near the 25 pupil limit. There may be the odd year where you cut it to 4 but I expect they would be few and far between.

        There may be building cost savings but I struggle to believe they would outweigh the costs of upheaval and added costs of transport. I may be wrong, of course, I am only speculating here.

        I’m not sure there is any “wrath of officials” for councillors. It is the councillors who have set the saving requirements. I’m sure the education department would now like it very much if those same councillors decided not to make cuts, at least in the sense it would make their jobs considerably easier. It is those council officials who are hardest done by in all of this, since they’re back to the impossible position where they are having the cuts they propose rejected but are still expected to find the same sums of money from elsewhere. There can’t be much left in the attic to sell.

  • John Tulloch

    • November 25th, 2014 21:11


    It ill behoves one of the archbishops of the Viking Energy sect to bleat about “cabals”.

    Somebody influential once said: “Reap as ye have sown!”

  • Ian Bruce

    • November 25th, 2014 22:23

    Well you could save money by not spending 11 million! Or even more by now? On windmills. Mr. Wills and get your colleagues and you of course. To give up all your over inflated expenses claims that gets paid every year. Lead by example !!!
    Oh how about less passengers on the north boats and more room for freight? So if they miss a sailing day for weather it wont mater so much.
    But then your sill windmills scam may do the job for all.
    After all who in there right mind wants to spend hundreds of pounds just to see the blasted things on every hill in Shetland when the cans see them in Scotland at no additional cost to themselves. Never mind the wasted millions on the new school
    for Lerwick and still not a stone brick or wall standing after 10 years. Now who was responsible for that? Haven’t you been a councilor for all that time. And after your suggestions above Mr. Wills it is plane to see you are a expert on wasting money by the looks of it. And you know what they say about a expert.
    At the old Schools you lot have now closed!
    Maths stated that X is a unknowing factor and Science a Spurt was a Wet Drip under pressure X-Spurt

  • Odette Anderson

    • November 25th, 2014 22:34

    Well possible massive savings could have been realised by closing sound and bell’s brae and making the new Anderson a JHS .
    This would best fit with the CFE ( curriculum for excellence ) nursery through to S6 .
    Save money with no expensive transportation costs ( ferries buses) ,hostel costs and no bad transition times. No discrimination against isles or rural areas. No going against councils own corporate plan by providing vital services for children and adults and the transport services we all need and encouraging strong communities .
    I believe that figures have come to light that rather as costing £3000 more per pupil to educate children in Shetland than Orkney and Western isles It’s only £330 more ,and it actually costs less for primary children.
    I realise savings have to be made but educations not where to start .
    Odette Anderson

  • Geoff Leask

    • November 26th, 2014 0:56

    You seem to have lost the “plot” recently but please keep the “gunpowder” dry (especially whilst circumnavigating Bressay with the paymasters). The boom of the ’70’s is long gone and the current upturn appears to be a damp squib and although somewhat in the wilderness, you are one of the few who can be a flea in the ear of our incumbent representatives (except Da Flea of course). Do Weel and Persevere for a’ da bairns.

  • John Tulloch

    • November 26th, 2014 10:37

    Not content with a million pounds down the drain on the ill-considered rural school closures project, Jonathan & Co. want to continue grinding it out, wasting ever more on a lost cause.

    It’s time to move on.

    Instead of pointing to an SIC failure to sustain rural populations (“falling school rolls”), it’s time to move on and consider what needs to be done to sustain those communities. I’ll even provide a buzz word to enthuse councillors and officials:

    “Be proactive!”

    For a start, the isles need fixed road links. Closing schools before that is putting the cart before the horse.

    Why can’t there be a small fish market and factory in Unst?

    There are billions going South from Shetland’s oil resources, yet all we can manage is to “witter on” about closing country schools.

    Get a grip!

  • Allen Fraser

    • November 26th, 2014 10:50

    History repeats itself – In another ‘Town Hall’ a long time ago the cabal strikes………..

  • Stuart Hannay

    • November 26th, 2014 13:09

    Ditching a badly planned blueprint that neither saved money nor improved education is not ‘gutless’, it’s sensible. Trying to set up an artificial town/country divide is cynical and spiteful. No pupils anywhere in Shetland would have benefitted from this. It’s kind of sad that Mr Wills thinks that anyone who doesn’t agree with him is involved in a Machiavellian plot.

    • Robert Duncan

      • November 26th, 2014 15:02

      It did save some money. The annual savings from the very sensible decision to close Scalloway secondary department more or less meet the quoted £1 million in admin costs since it began.

      It didn’t save enough though, and consultations in the past few years have been a waste of time. It is not so much the recent decision to back out that has been gutless, but the failure to make that decision earlier and the act of dragging everybody along for this with little intention to every follow through. Had they been honest up front and said they were never likely to close these schools, they could have allowed officials to get on with proposals that had better hope of reaching agreement.

      • John Tulloch

        • November 26th, 2014 17:14

        The present council contains many new members who are, chiefly, the ones referred to as “gutless”, originally, by the Flea and since by others like Jonathan Wills and now you. They have only been on the council for two years but have quickly found their feet and have rightly halted this long-running fiasco, now well into its second decade.

        In doing so they have had to overturn the ruling Lerwick-centred “cabal” and admit before the press that, as has been pointed out many times, the savings required to bring Shetland into line with Orkney and the Western Isles have already been achieved.

        For politicians to admit their organisation got it so wrong and instigate a U-turn takes courage,mnot “gutlessness”.

        I hope their next move will be to instigate an open inquiry into how such grotesque blunders could be made and not owned up to, immediately they were discovered when children’s education and family lives – and community well-being – were at stake.

      • Robert Duncan

        • November 27th, 2014 9:45

        ” the savings required to bring Shetland into line with Orkney and the Western Isles have already been achieved.”

        Not strictly true. It was found that at the point of comparison, 2012-13, Shetland still spent 30% more than the other authorities.

        With savings since then attributed to Shetland, but not the other authorities, Shetland was almost in line (but still not quite). That’s a very big improvement, but I do not believe for a second that the other authorities have not made their own savings in that time.

        Nor do I believe there has been a turnaround in light of that report. Most of the councillors voting against closures voted against closures previously. So, again I’m brought to wonder, why did they waste time and money green lighting consultations in the first place?

  • Bill Smale

    • November 26th, 2014 15:14

    Robert Duncan,

    The maximum class size of 25 only applies in P1 and composite classes. For P2 & P3, the limit is 30. For P4- P7 it’s 33.

    • Robert Duncan

      • November 26th, 2014 17:08

      A fair comment, apologies for the error above. Perhaps the older age groups will fit into three classes then, and you could cut out some of the fourth teachers. I’m still not convinced it would be a substantial saving.

      • Johan Adamson

        • November 27th, 2014 8:56

        You wouldnt need 3 heads

      • Robert Duncan

        • December 1st, 2014 8:59

        You wouldn’t need three heads now?

        You would lose one, but I’m not sure a single head teacher could manage a school of seven hundred pupils without at least one high-ranking depute.

  • Marina Thomason

    • November 26th, 2014 15:39

    As a parent currently going through a “live” consultations I have grave concerns regarding Councillor Will’s view on school closure consultations which from his letter are quite clearly financially driven. Finances can be taken into account but should never be the main driver behind a closure proposal. It was heartening to hear Councillor George Smith stating on the radio the other night that we need to re-focus on educational benefit and all the more disappointing to read Jonathan’s letter. I’m also a bit perplexed about his comments re tying up a Yell Sound ferry, which would be “tough on North Isles truckers”. In reality it would be making life much more difficult for the likes of us who run a small mussel farm and rely on fresh produce reaching markets and the many other fishing boats and salmon farms who ship out millions of pounds worth of produce out of the North Isles every week. It’s so frustrating that an apparently intelligent man (although he does claim himself that he is slow) fails to see the bigger picture for Shetland and the consequences of what he is suggesting, never mind the fact that it goes against the Council’s own Corporate Plan of supporting rural communities.

    • John Tulloch

      • November 26th, 2014 17:29


      It’s pathetic, the lack of vision is truly lamentable.

      The Scottish Futures Trust can put up money for a new sports hall – and that’s fine – so why can’t they put up the money, or some of it, to finance, even, a single tunnel?

      Have they ever been asked?

      Fortunately, the new order appears to be more “Shetland-orientated” as opposed to “Lerwick-centred”, so we may see a more strategic, broader-minded, view being taken.

      I hope so.

  • Hugh Jamieson

    • November 26th, 2014 17:15

    I have to point out that councillor Wills talks for the silent majority going on discussions at work and in the pub etc in my experience.
    He gets very little back up due to the insults and verbal abuse he gets.
    What the heck just keep on spending more per head than a child is educated at Eaton in some cases and sod all the other services required by our “community”.
    I look forward to being insulted and ridiculed.

  • John Tulloch

    • November 26th, 2014 20:30

    I assume you’re referring to Eton?

    Apparently, their fees are considerably than Shetland’s cost per pupil?

    It would appear that, like the SIC on education financial figures, you “could do better”!

  • john irvine

    • November 26th, 2014 22:45

    Oh dear, oh dear,

    I doot it`ll no be lang afore da men we da white coats is knockin on Jonathon`s door!

  • Hugh Jamieson

    • November 26th, 2014 23:19
    I apologise for spell checker doing its business.

    • John Tulloch

      • November 27th, 2014 9:52

      The decision to close Skerries secondary has been taken.

      How much of the Daily Express’s £135,000pa will be saved?

      Will there be no Head there, any more?

      Will a building close and be sold off?

      And the Express doesn’t mention Skerries’ £5 million pa net contribution to the Shetland/scottish/UK economy.

      I’d say the Express joins you and the SIC in the education finance “could do better” category?

      • Robert Duncan

        • November 27th, 2014 23:21

        I expect the “£5 million contribution” was too sensationalist for even the Express.

    • Marina Thomason

      • November 27th, 2014 17:01

      I think you might find that the cost is actually for the running of the whole of the Skerries school, nursery, primary and secondary. This is an old article but I find the costings stated in here more realistic than the one stated in the newspaper article.

  • Wendy McConnachie

    • November 27th, 2014 0:04

    Robert Duncan and Jonathon Wills would both do well to familiarise themselves with the meaning of “democracy”.

    • Robert Duncan

      • November 27th, 2014 9:16

      I’m not sure what it is you think I’ve said that is against democracy.

      I’m aware the councillors backed out of consultations based on the will of constituents, which is fine. However, that will did not change or come as a last minute surprise to them. Parents always have been and always will be against school closures.

      If that was always their core concern they should never have green-lighted consultations in the first place.

      • Johan Adamson

        • November 28th, 2014 11:33

        Is it not OK to change your mind in light of new evidence, like things that CURE pointed out were wrong?

      • Robert Duncan

        • November 28th, 2014 11:54

        Of course. If I thought that was what happened I wouldn’t have much of a problem. As stated, I think a lot of councillors were never likely to agree to closures and strung things along anyway.

      • Johan Adamson

        • November 28th, 2014 12:38

        But why would they do that? What could they possibly have had to gain from that? And all of them might not have had the same reasons?

      • John Tulloch

        • November 28th, 2014 12:56

        @RObert Duncan,

        The council voted into power in 21012 has not “strung anyone along”.

        The ill-considered rural school closure project was under way a full decade before they arrived on the scene and, quite rightly, called a halt to it.

        I attacked Vaila Wishart’s position on closures but am not without sympathy for her. She came in as a rookie councillor and was put in charge of education. Lacking experience but meaning well, she piled into the school closures fray, culminating in her egregious ST “Spaekalation” piece, in which she repeated SIC mantras about Shetland’s average cost per pupil and what Education Scotland allegedly said but didn’t actually say.

        Those claims were, immediately, blown apart, leaving her beached, “high and dry” and looking very foolish, indeed.

        And nobody rushed to speak up for her, not one of her fellow closure proponents denied the parents’ challenge, or suggested she might have been supplied with false information. They left her to “stew in her own juice”.

        I thought that was very poor, I couldn’t understand it?

      • Robert Duncan

        • November 28th, 2014 14:45

        Because it’s the easy way. To green light the consultations is the default, non-decision. To reject school closures after those consultations is also the default, non-decision. To have said several months ago, “hang on, we’re never going to agree to these closures, we know we have to save money but you’ll have to do it somewhere else” would have been the difficult thing. Saying it now is easy. There’s no actual gain, that’s the issue.

        And of course they all have their own reasons, but it’s plain to see there are a large group of them who would never agree to any but the most clear cut closure proposals.

  • Jonathan Wills

    • November 27th, 2014 8:49

    Another batch of unmoderated hate mail from wir internet trows, I see: would it be too much to ask for them to actually read what I wrote before they spew out the usual gobbets of personal insults and other nonsense?
    For example, I did not advocate reducing Yell Sound to a single large ferry; I said it was something those now in charge of the council might have to consider, if they continued to spend almost half the SIC budget on education and kept open schools that should be amalgamated for both educational and financial reasons. That remains a fact and we are still waiting for their alternative spending plans.
    The books will balance this coming year, thanks to the progress made since 2012. The problem is in future years. The cause is the deliberate undermining of council policy on education and finance by members of an undeclared, informal political group for which the correct name is indeed a ‘cabal’.
    By the way, perhaps I should reassure one of your more imaginative correspondents that my expenses as a councillor are and always have been extremely modest and are only ever for sums actually and necessarily incurred. On a recent visit to the Accounts Commission, for example, I paid all my travel and other expenses, because I was visiting family on the mainland anyway.
    None of this will have the slightest effect on the opinionated, ill-informed but persistent correspondents who dominate your columns, but I will continue to point out the sparsity of our new imperial wardrobe as and when necessary.

    • Brian Smith

      • November 27th, 2014 20:58

      I’m sorry, Jonathan, but there couldn’t be a more blatant example of ‘the deliberate undermining of council policy’ than the personal visit by two councillors to the Accounts Commission …

      • jonathan wills

        • December 3rd, 2014 21:25

        You got that wrong, Brian. We went to see the Accounts Commission to discuss our concerns about serial attempts by elected office-bearers to undermine council financial and education policy. George Smith and Billy Fox are, of course, free to oppose any council policy they wish, but from the back benches, not as elected office bearers with a duty to uphold democratically agreed policy.
        We were doing our duty to report to the auditors this breach of the solemn undertakings given to the Accounts Commission after the debacle in 2010.
        The problem which the leaders of the cabal do not yet appear to understand is that the council’s financial policy (i.e. a solvent council by 2017) cannot possibly be achieved unless there are major reductions in education spending – or large cuts in other services which have already seen their budgets slashed.
        To vote against carefully researched, fully-consulted proposals to amalgamate schools that are uneconomic and do not provide equal opportunities at affordable cost is to undermine the whole financial policy.
        Da Flea and I obviously accept the result of a democratic vote, whatever backstage manoeuvrings took place beforehand; we have no alternative. But we do have a right to point out the calamitous consequences of this vote, which has derailed the entire educational refom policy and, with it, any hope of a solvent council by 2020, let alone 2017.
        Perhaps you would like to see a new law preventing individual councillors, and even the Chair of the SIC Audit Committee, from having direct access to the Accounts Commission and the auditors? I’m sure Trotsky would have approved of this.
        For the record, I am not a member of “a coalition of 22 independent members”. This soundbite is an absurd notion. I try to represent the interests of constituents in my own ward and also the interests of the whole of Shetland. In this endeavour I will continue to oppose attempts by the cabal to undermine the interests of all the pupils and parents of Shetland.
        Because of a long-standing engagement to speak at a memorial event for an old friend, I will not be able to join the other six Lerwick councillors at the meeting on Saturday of Lerwick Community Council and the three parent councils in the town. I urge the public to attend and express their views on the actions of those who have voted to undermine the future of Shetland education by keeping open school buildings we do not need and cannot afford.
        The meeting is in the Clickimin Bowls Hall on Saturday 6th December from 2pm to 4pm.

      • Johan Adamson

        • December 4th, 2014 8:54

        Billy Fox says you have not been to the recent budget meetings. Is this true?

      • Ali Inkster

        • December 4th, 2014 8:55

        Considering the number of meetings you have missed Jonathan, would it not be better for you to resign your position on the council and concentrate your efforts on taking tourists to LFT to watch selkies eat salmon.

      • John Tulloch

        • December 4th, 2014 9:57


        You and others have repeatedly said that the SIC receives £28 million pa from the Scottish government towards the £48 million pa cost of Shetland’s education system.

        1. How is the figure of £28 million pa from the SG determined? Is the average cost per pupil for Scotland as a whole a significant factor in the calculation?

        2. Given that Shetland’s primary and secondary education costs are in line with those of the Western Isles, do their councils suffer from a similar shortfall in government funding?

        3. If Orkney and WI suffer similar funding shortfalls, why are we not seeking to redress that via Our Islands, Our Future and why are they not closing country schools?

        4. If they don’t have similar funding shortfalls, why is the SIC not pointing out that apparent injustice to the Scottish government?

        They have, after all, recently seized SIC’s housing support grant – the cash equivalent of £40 million – which was intended by Westminster to compensate SIC for building houses to expedite the 1970s oil boom from which hundreds of billions of pounds have since flowed to the Exchequer and tens of thousands of jobs created, in Scotland and elsewhere.

      • Ali Inkster

        • December 4th, 2014 10:53

        Jonathan Jonathan Jonathan, you say you think that there is an overprovision in Burra of all places Burra that has had sweet FA from the council since the bridge was built in 1973. Burra where council spending is lower than anywhere else in Shetland. Burra that provides a huge amount of income to Shetland. How about we all leave taking our incomes with us, how long do you think Shetland could afford to keep a ferry running back and fore to Bressay all day mostly empty. How about the good folk in Whalsay decide to do the same. Where will the money come from for a new AHS if folks upsticks and leave because that is a distinct possibility. And tyou have still to explain to us your employers why you are willing to tell the English that Scotland will keep Shetland resources to pay for pet projects in Edinburgh and Glasgow yet you are not willing to keep SHETLANDS RESOURCES TO PAY FOR THE THINGS SHETLAND NEEDS, LIKE FIXED LINKS TO THE ISLES. RELIABLE TRANSPORT TO THE REST OF THE WORLD. EDUCATION IN THE COMMUNITY FOR OUR KIDS.

      • Robert Duncan

        • December 4th, 2014 13:52

        Have to agree with Ali, here. I think the Central Mainland schools (Scalloway, Hamnavoe, Tingwall, Whiteness & Weisdale) are among the most sustainable in Shetland. All have rolls of 50+. I don’t see much educational benefit to closures there, and I think people tend to forget how long it takes to get to the south end of Burra.

        Certainly if the Council can’t agree to close any of the Northmavine schools, they wouldn’t have much of a leg to stand on when arguing for those closures.

      • Robert Duncan

        • December 4th, 2014 13:54

        Should perhaps clarify that I agree with the bit about Burra’s school, and less so the SHOUTY RANT AT THE END.

      • Johan Adamson

        • December 4th, 2014 15:17

        I am going to add a shouty bit.


      • Michael Garriock

        • December 5th, 2014 3:39

        “To vote against carefully researched, fully-consulted proposals to amalgamate schools that are uneconomic and do not provide equal opportunities at affordable cost is to undermine the whole financial policy”.

        Perhaps some councillors have come to the conclusion that the information they were supplied with and voted upon, doesn’t seem to be quite as carefully “researched” or “consulted” upon as they were led to believe. Which in turn obviously automatically calls in to question the accuracy of the uneconomic, unequal opportunities and unaffordable allegations based on that information.

        Arguably it is wiser to choose to leave the status quo in place, however ‘wrong’ that may or may not be, than force ahead with an alternative, when clarity no longer exists that it is likely to be any more or less ‘wrong’ than the status quo it will replace.

        “…. the council’s financial policy (i.e. a solvent council by 2017) cannot possibly be achieved unless there are major reductions in education spending – or large cuts in other services which have already seen their budgets slashed”.

        How unimaginative.

      • Johan Adamson

        • December 5th, 2014 8:55

        I mean that CHILDREN should be at the heart of the PLAN

        And why do we need to save more money if we are now spending the same as Orkney and the Western Isles, as John Tulloch is fond of asking?

    • Christopher Ritch

      • November 28th, 2014 0:19

      Jonathan, instead of perpetuating this petty parochial “town vs country” mentality, why don’t you grow a pair and begin lobbying for the money Shetland needs to balance the budget?

    • Johan Adamson

      • November 28th, 2014 8:54

      Hate mail? Opinionated? Pot-kettle springs to mind

    • John Tulloch

      • November 28th, 2014 10:22


      If I remember correctly, both you and Mr Duncan were deposed from your official committee positions in the recent SIC committee reshuffle by this alleged “cabal”. Now the pair of you are running to Edinburgh to “tell da teacher on dem”.

      Since you went to Edinburgh before your above letter was published and you didn’t mention it, does that mean that you and Mr Duncan “met in secret”?

      Did you invite the other councillors to your discussions, and keep them informed, prior to going to Edinburgh?

      You say “…. I will continue to point out the sparsity of our new imperial wardrobe as and when necessary.”

      Why then was it necessary for the parent councils to point out “the sparsity of the old imperial wardrobe” on school closure financial arguments, if you have been the “continuing” guardian of the SIC’s financial probity?

      Your own “wardrobe” appears somewhat “Mother Hubbardesque”, right now.

  • Johan Adamson

    • November 27th, 2014 9:10

    Still think a junior high for Lerwick should be considered. I would leave Sound as a primary but amalgamate Bells Brae and the AHS. 5th and 6th years would all attend the college, as stated before. All stand alone primary pupils would go to their nearest junior high and then college. The college would share the teachers.

    I doubt we are really going back to the drawing board, however, it will just be the same old same old – ‘each dept must lose 10%’ in budget setting. No imagination and no setting of priorities. Are the consultations over or not?

  • John Tulloch

    • November 27th, 2014 9:57

    I’m concerned we may be raising a smoke screen here, to cover the shenanigans taking place with Sustainable Shetland’s Viking Energy court case.

    The school closures are finished so there’s no point in grinding it out.

    I’m off to hae a peerie tink aboot da coort case.

  • Andy Holt

    • November 27th, 2014 16:16

    Recently Tristram Hunt, the Labour Party’s shadow education minister suggested that a future Labour Government would force “public schools” to become more involved with “state schools” in their locale or risk losing some of their tax breaks. There is no doubt that whatever one may feel, viscerally in some cases, about the “public school” sector, they are highly successful in promoting high levels of educational attainment in their pupils, attracting high quality teaching staff and state of the art facilities. New Labour’s answer to this was the promotion of academies. A policy which has enjoyed mixed results. Nevertheless under the Tories this idea has gained momentum with quite a number of schools founded and run by concerned parents, social entrepreneurs and philanthropists. Why not run a model like this in Shetland? A representative group from each community would become responsible for the running of the local school. They would be registered charities, thus attracting more diverse streams of funding. A percentage of what the SIC currently spends would provide the basic pot of cash, tax breaks and donors the rest. As a result, local pride and ownership of the school would be encouraged. Perhaps we need, as communities within the larger community of Shetland, to rely less on Nanny SIC and encourage local communities to take back responsibility for setting the direction of their own destinies.

  • Andy Holt

    • November 27th, 2014 16:22

    In fact they could be partially financed through the Charitable Trust! Probably a more sound investment for the future than those wretched windmills!

    • Robert Duncan

      • November 27th, 2014 23:30

      I recognise this is largely tongue in cheek, but the Charitable Trust could not fund a public or state school, partially or otherwise.

      • Johan Adamson

        • November 28th, 2014 8:51


      • Robert Duncan

        • November 28th, 2014 11:19

        How would it tally with the Charitable Trust’s constitutional purpose?

        It cannot fund the ongoing operational costs of any state school, as that is within the statutory remit of the local authority. The issue of a private school may be more complex, but I think there would be significant issue with any funding from the Charitable Trust towards a private school as I do not see how it could be for the benefit of ALL Shetlanders. Where would it be based in order to serve all who wanted to access it? Would it take fees? If it did not take fees, how would it sustain itself in the long term?

      • John Tulloch

        • November 28th, 2014 11:48

        So, on top of Shetland’s fishing industry being better off out of the EU, the benefits accruing to Shetland from becoming autonomous, would include control of the local tax laws and thus, what Shetland Charitable Trust money might be used for?

  • Marina Thomason

    • November 27th, 2014 19:38

    Apologies for misinterpreting your letter, I’m glad you do not advocate a single vessel on Yell Sound. So that is very good news for our business and communities. However, if our children cannot live with us and have to go and live in Lerwick to complete their secondary education it probably won’t matter what the ferry service is like because families won’t want to settle or stay here.

  • Sandy McMillan

    • November 28th, 2014 0:06

    Is there any truth in the story I heard that the contract signed by BP Sullom Voe and the SIC back in the or around the 1970s, would cease that is the money that Shetland received per barrel that went down the Oil Jetties, This seemingly stopped in the year 2000, If this is the case why was there not a clause in the contract to say that in 2000 the contract per barrel would be reviewed, instead the SIC end up with nothing other than the rent, For part of the Sullom Voe OIL Terminal, as Councillor Wills states the Trust has £200 million, instead of £500 Million in there back pockets to spend stupidly as they did in the past, which has left Shetland in this poor state of affaires.

    • Ali Inkster

      • November 28th, 2014 11:31

      Sandy there was a provision to renegotiate and somehow we ended up with nothing like the Total deal that is worth peanuts this happened under edinburghs watch, the money we did get came to us under westminters watch, . I will let you come to your own conclusion as to the reason for this.

      • Derick Tulloch

        • November 28th, 2014 14:00

        Inventive, Mr Inkster, inventive

        Pray tell whit wey Edinburgh can be blamed for the SIC failing to renegotiate a better deal?

  • Hugh Jamieson

    • December 1st, 2014 21:23

    why don’t we send all our children to the same school as John Tulloch who clearly knows everything, is always right and insults anyone who he disagrees with. Maybe that way we would all do better.

    • John Tulloch

      • December 1st, 2014 22:48

      @Hugh Jamieson,

      Bell’s Brae, Da auld Infants’, LCPS, AEI, AHS, Inverness College, Napier College, The Open University and The Open Business School, not to mention (best of all), “The University of Life”.

      Your kids could do a lot worse for education than that, but I wouldn’t wish them to have to be sixty, first!

      Oh, you’re no een o’ dat Jamiesons fae Trolliegairts, be ony chance?


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