Island MSPs pressure Scottish Government to fix island college funding shortfall


Cross-party MSPs representing the three main island groups, Orkney, Shetland, and Na h-Eileanan an Iar, have today (Monday) written to the Minister for Higher and Further Education, Jamie Hepburn, to call for an uplift in funding for island colleges to address a specific shortfall in their budgets. 

Cross-party MSPs representing the three main island groups, Orkney, Shetland, and Na h-Eileanan an Iar, have today (Monday) written to the Minister for Higher and Further Education, Jamie Hepburn, to call for an uplift in funding for island colleges to address a specific shortfall in their budgets. 

The Distant Island Allowance is a payment that must be made by colleges to staff, to take account of higher costs in island areas. As it stands, local authorities bear the burden of this cost, without specific support to do this from the Scottish Funding Council.

 

Commenting, Beatrice Wishart said: 

“It is utterly unreasonable to ignore this significant burden in calculations around college funding for Orkney and Shetland. The financial pressure that’s caused will completely undermine the purpose of the Distant Island Allowance itself.

“The Scottish Government appear to give with one hand and take with the other here. But at the end of the day, staff and students will be worse off if this shortfall isn’t addressed. It needs to be fixed in time for the completion of the Shetland College Merger and the new term start.

 

Liam McArthur added:

“High quality education provided by Scotland’s colleges will be essential for our recovery from the pandemic. We will be reliant on dedicated staff to retrain and upskill the workforce as we face the challenges ahead, including the workforce demands of a climate emergency.

“Those staff need to be properly supported, and that means accounting for additional costs in our island areas. Local authorities shouldn’t be left to bear that additional burden and Ministers must now step in and make up the shortfall.”

 

The text of the letter is as follows:

"Dear Jamie

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.

Yours sincerely

Liam McArthur MSP, Beatrice Wishart MSP and Alasdair Allan MSP"


Share this post on social media:

Sign in with Facebook, Twitter or Email.