More than £100,000 spent on schools case

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At least £100,000 of public money has been spent so far in the battle over the future of three island schools.

A Freedom of Information request by the Stornoway Gazette has found that the Scottish Government’s legal bill in for Carloway, Shelibost and Shawbost S1/2 unit to stay open, stands at £23,000 for the Judicial Review in which they were unsuccessful and £30,000 for their Appeal which is still ongoing.

This figure only includes legal bills up to February 11th this year and does not include the expenses which the Scottish Government will now have to pay to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

The Comhairle also released their expenditure figures on the case to the Stornoway Gazette and revealed they had spent more then £50,000 but would hope to recover the majority of this as expenses from the Scottish Government.

Last week the Shelibost Parent Council asked the Scottish Government to allow their school to close and so the Scottish Government withdrew this part of their appeal. The court of session has since ruled that all the Comhairle’s costs in relation to Shelibost should be met by Scottish Ministers.

A statement from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said: “The expenditure to date is £50,572. The The expenditure is not broken down to individual schools. On 28 February 2013 the Court of Session ruled that all the Comhairle’s costs for Seilebost School would be met by Scottish Ministers.  The costs of the appeals in relation to Carloway and Shawbost schools would also be met by Scottish Ministers but the Scottish Ministers’ costs for their limited success in the cross appeal would be payable by the Comhairle.  “These costs require to be “taxed” by the Accountant of Court and it is unlikely that the whole costs will be recovered as certain limits apply.  The cross appeal is estimated to have accounted for around 10% of the appeal hearing and the Comhairle therefore anticipates recovering most of its costs to date.  No ruling has yet been made on the costs of the initial hearing before Lord Brailsford.”

A further hearing is due to be held later this month and in June on Carloway and Shawbost secondary unit but parents are hoping a final decision will be made sooner rather than later.

If school closures are the agreed course of action at the June meeting, children would have little time to prepare for transition to a new school or to celebrate the history of the school.