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.
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.
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!