Shetland’s MSP, Scottish Liberal Democrat Beatrice Wishart, has today welcomed the merger of a new college for Shetland. The new single tertiary-education college, Shetland UHI, brings together Shetland College UHI, Train Shetland and NAFC Marine Centre UHI.
The long-anticipated merger was finalised on 1st August and ensures that Shetland has a sustainable college for the future with a full range of educational opportunities, training and research, developed from the strengths and expertise of the three educational organisations.
Earlier this month Ms Wishart and fellow MSPs from Orkney and the Western Isles called on the Scottish Government to top up funding for island colleges to fix a financial shortfall.
Ms Wishart said:
‘College merger proposals have been long in the planning stages, and while it hasn’t been an easy process, I am pleased to see them come to fruition.
‘I would like to commend all involved for their focus on the project, which ensures education, training and research are at the heart of Shetland’s future.
‘As we prepare for life after Covid-19, with changes to how we learn and develop skills for the workforce in industries such as renewables and across the maritime and marine environment, the merger comes at a crucial time for Shetland’s economic development.
‘There are strong foundations on which to build, learn and train at Scotland’s ‘top college’ with all the expertise of the three merged organisations. I wish Shetland UHI every success for the future.’
Notes to Editors
1. The text of the letter to the Scottish Government on the financial shortfall for island colleges, addressed to Jamie Hepburn MSP, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science of Scotland, is as follows:
You will be aware of the Distant Island Allowance, which is an arrangement whereby local authorities are required to pay staff an additional sum on top of their agreed salary. Under current arrangements, island colleges will bear the burden of this extra cost. As you know, this additional and necessary cost is not accounted for in funding from the Scottish Government or the Scottish Funding Council (SFC).
We understand that the Principals of the various island colleges have made determined efforts to see this issue addressed, in consultation with the SFC. To date, however, requests for additional funding have been rejected. Furthermore, correspondence sent to the Scottish Government on 28 April 2021 has not yet received a substantive response.
This funding shortfall will have a direct impact on the deliverability of services in island colleges. It must therefore be accounted for in a specific uplift in funding from the SFC. As the island college Principals put to you in that correspondence:
“Without this action, an increasing burden will fall on the rurality funding pot, diverting it from its real purpose of supporting the necessary cost of rural funding. Not to do this seems to us inconsistent with the requirements of Government and SFC under the Islands Act to have regard to the impact of policies on islands communities.”
We believe that accounting for the DIA in SFC funding arrangements is fair, proportionate and necessary. It also reflects the commitments made by Ministers in the context of the Islands Act. We therefore urge you to take steps to address this anomaly and work with the island colleges to put in place support ahead of the forthcoming academic term.
We look forward to your response.
Liam McArthur MSP, Beatrice Wishart MSP and Alasdair Allan MSP"
2. Since 2019 Ms Wishart has been the Scottish Liberal Democrat spokesperson for education.