UPDATE: Schools expected to close following Court of Session ruling

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Carloway and Shelibost Primary Schools and Shawbost S1/2 department are likely to close later this year, following today’s (Wednesday) ruling from the Court of Session.

The Court of Session was considering an appeal from the Scottish Government following the ruling of a Judicial Review in favour of the Comhairle’s decision to close three island schools.

The ruling found not in favour of the Scottish Government but did accept that they had a right to call in the schools decisions in the first place.

Leader of the Comhairle Angus Campbell welcomed the court ruling and said the council had now been ‘vindicated’ twice on this issue.

A procedural hearing will now be heard and Mr Campbell said they were still waiting to hear more about this and what it would involve.

Cllr Campbell said: “This clearly shows the legislation is flawed on this issue and it is imperative that this is sorted. The legislation needs to be clear for local authorities and government.

“We will consider carefully the terms of today’s judgement however it is clear the Judicial Review decision for the Comhairle has been upheld . I would call upon the Scottish Government to respect the twice-expressed will of the Comhairle that educational provision cease at these three schools. This would end uncertainty for parents, pupils and staff and allow us to move on with providing the best possible education for pupils in the Western Isles.”

Chair of Education and Children’s Services Cllr Catriona Stewart, said: “I am pleased that the Judicial Review decision has been upheld and that the judgement contains no criticism of the way the Comhairle conducted the processes and decisions in this matter. I would hope that we can now move on from this and provide a way ahead for our schools and communities.”

Seilibost currently has six pupils, Carloway 15 and the S1/S2 provision at Shawbost 34.

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan said: “My opposition as local MSP to the Comhairle’s decisions to close Carloway and Seilebost primaries and the secondary unit at Shawbost are well known.

“The Scottish Government has now, in Scotland’s highest courts, twice defended the position that the schools should stay open.

“The Court of Session has today accepted that the Scottish Government had the right to call in the schools decisions in the first place. They have however also rejected some of the Government’s arguments, and the fate of the three schools is now not likely to be clarified until a further procedural hearing. The Education Secretary Mike Russell is now carefully considering the implications of the judgement.

“I am obviously disappointed that the issue has not been resolved the way I would have sought, as I believe these are three great schools. However, the Scottish Government has defended its position repeatedly and I hope that the situation will become clearer at the forthcoming hearing.

“Meantime, I have written to the three parent councils and will stay involved in this issue, as I appreciate the extent of local concerns.”