Sense and Nonsense

This is not the post I had meant to write, but after the news on Radio Orkney this morning, you are going to get this one!!

So the NONSENSE first.

Anyone who lives outside a city centre knows how important transport is. If you have any imagination, you will realise that for islanders, the ferry services are crucial to life. Without the ferry you are stuck. You can’t get to the town for meetings, the dentist, coffee with friends and family from other islands. Post, parcels, food can’t get in. You can’t go away from home.

The ferries which run between the various Orkney islands and the Orkney Mainland are reliable despite the often horrendous weather they sail in. But they are getting old, and for several years the Council has been talking to the Scottish Government about replacements. Our own boat, the Hoy Head was lengthened and given new engines earlier this year, and that cast several million; replacing the boats cost 30-odd million each. And three big ones need replacing, plus another two or three smaller ones.

Lengthened Hoy Head
The lengthened Hoy Head passing between Flotta and the uninhabited island of Fara

Until yesterday, the Council thought things were going well. The government agreed the boats were already outside their ‘official’ lifetime (built for 25 years, now over 30 years in service) and that they needed replacement. In these cases the Government almost always pays a good percentage of the costs, with the local Council paying an agreed amount.

Then yesterday, the Government tore up the agreed stuff, and told the Council they had to put the money up front BEFORE they would look at what THEY think is needed and what total costs would be. In other words, it is like you wanting me to pay you for my winter coat, and YOU deciding what quality, colour, size and type of coat you will get me. And if it doesn’t fit, well tough…

Totally mad. And as someone has put on the Radio Orkney Facebook page, you would have thought that with the referendum coming up they would be wanting to woo the population of Orkney, not alienate every single person…

But there was some sensible news too, this time concerning Flotta itself. They ‘mothballed’ the school several years ago as there were no pupils. Now we have two primary aged children coming to the island, with two more families wanting to move here. The Council had been saying that they wouldn’t open the school as it would cost too much – they would (by law) have to have a full time secretary, jannie, cook etc etc etc as well as a Head Teacher (not just a teacher). This is clearly nonsense. The island folk have been saying all along that it could be a ‘remote classroom’ from one of the other schools. This means it is officially part of another school, but that the classroom is on Flotta. And yesterday the Council opted for this arrangement. They have said that for 1 to 3 pupils they would arrange to do home schooling, but that for 4 or more they will set up a remote classroom in the school.

The Flotta School, on the left, is in the heart of the community.
The Flotta School, on the left, is in the heart of the community.

This is great news for the island. Now people with families can consider Flotta again, and hopefully soon we will have 6 kids screaming round the playground again!


9 thoughts on “Sense and Nonsense

  1. Having lived on an island myself I am all too well aware of the transport problems that can arise. It is better now but when we lived on Kangaroo Island if it was too rough for the ferry (and Backstairs Passage can be one of the roughest crossings in the world) and the landing strip at the airport could not be used then the place could be cut off unless an intrepid crop-duster (tiny aircraft) was prepared to try. The crop-duster would usually land on the road outside the school my father was in charge of in the centre of the island.
    Kangaroo Island is much larger than Flotta and the airport has been improved but there are still problems with the ferry. So, I feel for you. Hope Flotta gets a school again!

  2. love to hear the stories of your island. Course being a Home School mom & grandmom . I would opt for HSing independently .. but I can sure see how having families with kids on the island is a blessing too .
    being landlocked in the USA .. it is so interesting to read about your going ons 🙂

  3. On my small town, 4 blocks square, we get upset every time a family with children moves out and rejoice when a family with children arrives. We don’t want to lose our school!

  4. I’ve been looking at Flotta as a potential place to move to, I guess all the empty houses will fill up before we can make it there (was thinking of moving in 2-3 years time), we are a home educating family with five young children who would come with us.

    1. Houses come and go on the island (if you see what I mean!). I suspect there would be something…. It is a fabulous place to bring up children – they can roam free and folk will keep an out for them. There is a small adventure playground near the scheme and school, and lots of empty roads for riding bikes…

      1. Thanks for replying. I’m hoping to visit sometime next year. I like the idea of the children being able to roam free.

  5. Oh I do hope you get the boats sorted out or the GOVERNMENT DOES! Cos we want you to stay with us! It just wont be the same without you!
    From a Sassenach ( I suppose) who lived for 5 years in Scotland when I first married and absolutely loved it, and had a Scottish mother!

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