Media Coverage: Shetland News Article, July 18th

Centralisation fears unfounded

Wednesday, 18 July 2012 | Written by Iwan McBride |

ISLANDERS have nothing to fear from the Scottish government’s plans to centralise colleges, police and fire services, according to SNP MSP Jean Urquhart.

The highlands and islands list MSP said claims that control over Shetland College would be taken away from the local community were groundless, and the government’s aim was to make better use of resources.

Referring to the reform of police and fire services in Scotland, she added that both would become more democratic under the new set up, having to report to local councils.

Earlier this month it emerged that the local authority run Shetland College could become part of “multi-college region” governed by a regional board answerable to the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

A government civil servant has since assured islanders that Shetland College would not be affected by the proposals, but islanders, including Shetland MSP Tavish Scott, remain “utterly sceptical”.

While on a visit to Shetland this week, Mrs Urquhart tried to squash these fears.

“Shetland College, unlike other colleges in the highlands and islands area, is linked with the local authority. Other colleges elsewhere have independent boards, they don’t have any obligation to have councillors on their boards.

“All and each of these colleges have a particular set of circumstances, and that’s what the minister is looking at. The fear of some heavy hand coming from somewhere else, I think, certainly is as yet unfounded,” Mrs Urquhart said.

“Everything that is done should be to the benefit of colleges, not against their ambition and the courses they deliver locally.

“Whatever discussion that takes place should be about what’s best for the college, and how it is run now.

“All these colleges are part of the UHI network, they want to deliver higher as well as further education, and they all want to get involved in research, and there are benefits for Shetland as being part of UHI.”

Letter: Police and Fire Reform Bill (June 28th)

On Wednesday 27th June, I was proud to vote for the establishment of this new service that returns powers to local communities and helps to preserve our record high numbers of police officers, placing resources where they are most needed.

In contrast to the Scottish Government’s commitment to public services, the Conservative-Liberal Coalition Government is set to slash 16,000 officers down south, an act that the Police Federation has described as being ‘on the precipice of destroying’ the police service in England and Wales.

Contrary to the claims of other parties, this new service does not move power away from communities. Instead, it places them in a strong and mutually beneficial partnership with their local commander, strengthening the ties between the service and the community it serves.

The fact that Shetland Islands Council, for example, must now have its approval sought on the delivery of services on Shetland is surely an improvement on the current arrangements.

I call upon people of all parties and none to help realise the potential of this new service by working with local communities to increase co-operation across all levels of government.



Jean Urquhart MSP