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The truths they don't want you to read....

Monday, May 26, 2008

School closures

The parents committees have taken another large step forward in their campaign to stop the closures with big signs where the roads enter Stornoway.

The one at the Manor roundabout compares the number of school closures in the whole of England (8), mainland Scotland (6) and the Western Isles (9), and seeks to create public support for the schools to be retained.*

However much sympathy I may have for the parents and pupils affected, I am also very aware of the financial atmosphere in which this is all taking place; and I do not envy the Councillors who have to make these choices (which I have previously suggested are being taken without the full context being considered).

With school rolls generally falling - although some schools are seeing a slight increase this year - the key driver is the absence of pupils.

There is a simple vicious circle:

Limited job opportunities -> fail to retain people of working age -> fewer children -> schools close -> community up in arms

Or a virtuous one:

Job opportunities -> people of working age attracted back -> more children -> schools remain open -> communities thrive

Not difficult to work out is out?

Parts of these islands are heading towards the former - rapidly - and the cost of that is going to be the loss of certain services in those areas. Unless someone has a magic pot of gold.

Retirement seems to be the only growth industry in large swathes of the West Side.

Perhaps someone will tell me how tourism will reverse this trend?

* Update 28/5/08: The correct detail on the poster is pointed out in comment 13. Sorry, my mistake.


Anonymous said...

I wish I could be botherd to rise to the bait in full Angus (I am only getting started here).

You know as well as anyone that there is a policy of supporting rural communities, but that the Comhairle are hell bent on drawing all into urban Stornoway. Hypocritical in the extreme.

I suspect you will get a backlash from the west side too with your comments. They can get upset out that way as you know ;-)

I hate to flag this up, but perhaps if CNES were not so keen to plough money into windfarms then money would be available for education.

We see an expanding planning team for instance at the Comhairle but they are clearly clueless. They have been left wanting time and time again and lack profesionalsim. We see jobs being created for the boys that aren't advertised. High paid jobs at that. We see councilors globe trotting at our expense. We see are schools crumbling. To any layman I know what the priority should be. The level of discontent in the communities with the council is gaining momentum on a daily basis.

Get your act together for the sake of local communities, not at their expense.

Anonymous said...

As you say, the key is 'job opportunities'.

But to be truly sustainable, such jobs must be based upon industries which are feasible for an island environment.

In effect, the only businesses which will thrive on an island, be it in Scotland or in the Caribbean, are those which can most efficiently exploit whatever it is the locale has to offer without relying upon artificial props such as 'subsidy' from outside sources. For most islands, that's 'tourism'.

Some islands will possess a useful natural resources (ie, sugar cane, bauxite, etc in the Caribbean, eg) which can also be exploited. Some will turn to a knowledge-based economy (Singapore, eg).

A few may become trade nexuses, if geography has been kind to them.

Unfortunately, the Western Isles are 'off to one side'. 'Tourism' is probably the single most likely business type to succeed, since the Isles aren't on major shipping routes and aren't going to become another Singapore anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

The sign was prepared by:

Gordon 'Diesel' MacLennan
Margaret Martin (Teacher at Sgoil nan Loch and SNP Chair) and
Alasdair Allan MSP

All of whom are neighbours, but I think that the last two might want to keep their involvement quiet....

Anonymous said...

The sign at the Manor roundabout has been prepared by the Save Back School Campaign. There was and is no input from Alasdair Allan or Margaret Martin to the Campaign or the sign.

Anonymous said...

Margaret Martin is not Chair of the SNP.....

Anonymous said...

Gordon, which member of the SNP staff phoned to tell you about the anon comment? Rona or Kenny?

Anonymous said...

Oooh looks like the SNP MSP and his side kick have got their knickers in a twist.

Instant denial always looks dodgy, you would think that their idol Angus B MacNeil would have taught them that.

Alasdair Allan has been bullied into supporting the Save Back School campaign by Mrs Martin. She helped to get him his job, he helps to save her.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that so many people here are afraid of the knowledge economy. Or doing anything with technology. Is it seen as a threat, in some way?

Anonymous said...

I saw the billboard today. It's quite impressive that this seems to be the only way we as a country can beat England.

On a serious note, it's an easy one to solve.

How about we stop driving our young families away by allowing them to get on and off the Island on a Sunday by whichever means of transport they choose, by allowing them to take their families to the swimming pool on a Sunday and by giving them job opportunities rather than shouting down every single discussion of progression. Give our young people a reason to stay. Stop judging people if they don't want to go to church on a Sunday but instead want to enjoy the beaches on the islands and play in their own gardens.

At the moment there is no incentive unless you have sold up on the mainland and want to buy a house with no mortgage but don't need a job in a nice quiet place. This place draws retirees to it for that reason and drives the young away. No young, no need for schools.

There is only so much money to go around and the economics of opening schools for a handful of youngsters just doesn't make sense regardless of what political persuasion you are.

Anonymous said...

Why does every discussion on this island end up on Sundays or Windfarms?

We have a good educataion system here. That should be applauded, not stabbed in the back by a rogue council. So much for supporting rural communities when you shut their schools. If money is being claimed to be the issue then I suggest a full independant audit of what the Comhairle DO spend our money on is in order.

I note that the councillors within the affected areas of these school closures are remaining very quiet. With the spread of closures being island wide, if they got together they could out vote the pro-closure promoters. Why are they not making more noise?

Seems like now our representatives take a wage they have become disengaged with the communities.


Captain Bovril

Anonymous said...

My son was going to go away to work but he heard there may be a chance that there will be a ferry and swimming pool available to him on a Sunday. That changed his mind. There are no jobs for him however, even in tourism or looking after twitchers in Barvas. Nevertheless, he's very happy that he'll be on the dole, not in a backward place like we have at the moment, but in a "progressive" place like we all yearn for!!!

Anonymous said...

"How about we stop driving our young families away by allowing them to get on and off the Island on a Sunday by whichever means of transport..."
If they have to get on and off the island, surely they've left already??

Anonymous said...

Don't be so stupid. It's like living in a prison here on a Sunday. Many professional people like to go away for the weekend after a hard week at work. Leave Friday night, returning Sunday. We cannot do that here, unless we do it by plane and anyone who has done this knows what the cost is. With RET (when we ever get it) and a Sunday Ferry we will have freedom of movement and people who can just about stand to live up here Monday to Friday amongst idiots like you.

Anonymous said...

The sign actually says:

England 3
Scotland 8
Western Isles 9

rather than the figures given in this blog.

Readers should be aware that this blog is opinion, though the odd correct fact does occasionally slip through the net...

Angus said...

Anon, you are right and the blog is wrong. I wrote the posting after seeing the poster for the first time, and never got round to correcting it when I checked a second time.

Still, it doesn't change the point that they are trying to make.

Anonymous said...

Morag Munro is saying we are spreading misinformation.

The council are the ones who would not allow a show of hands at Shawbost school to gauge opinion.

They are the ones stifling democracy.

Anonymous said...

What's keeping you here? You're free to go back to civilisation.

Anonymous said...

Security is being stepped around a Petrol station in Back and a Plastics factory in Stornoway amid fears that there may be reprisal attacks ordered by the Talibun and the Toad.

Anonymous said...

Only someone living in or near Stornoway could want to close schools on the westside and have 11 year olds travelling over 20 miles daily to school.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:05

Oh please.

I had to travel on a (public transport) bus across a big scary city and back again through my entire high-school career. And I'm definitely not alone in that.

It seems daft to me to spend so much money creating an artificial bubble for S1 and 2's that kids elsewhere in the UK don't have and that I'm sure most readers of this blog didn't have either.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1.09

This comment could only be from someone living in or near Stornoway.

Anonymous said...

Nope - Lochs, with kids who will be affected by the closure.

Anonymous said...

Near enough to Stornoway if North Lochs