The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s largest union for teachers and lecturers, has today written to the Minister for Further and Higher Education Richard Lochhead regarding the potential merger of Shetland College, Train Shetland and the NAFC Marine Centre.

This merged institution would be a private company limited by guarantee marking the first time in Scotland that a college has been transferred from public ownership into a private company.

The EIS has previously raised its concerns with Deputy First Minister John Swinney, the Scottish Funding Council for Further and Higher Education (SFC) and all Shetland Island councillors.

Due to the corona virus pandemic, yesterday afternoon Shetland Islands Council cancelled a meeting due to take place today (26th March) in which they would make a final decision on recommendations, however no meaningful consultation with staff or trade unions had taken place prior. It has been suggested by Shetland Islands Council that they may now make the decision using delegated authority instead of via a full Council meeting. In a letter to Richard Lochhead MSP, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan urged him to raise concerns with Shetland Islands Council as a matter of urgency.

Mr Flanagan said, “The lack of communication with trade unions and staff is greatly concerning. Collective bargaining procedures and protocol must continue to be followed even throughout this unprecedented time.

“The EIS does not wish to delay this process; however, the current situation with Covid-19 should not be used to circumvent required consultation or democratic process. Shetland council must ensure that this takes place before proceeding further.”

The EIS has previously stated that it is not opposed to the merger in principle, but that it strongly opposes the privatisation of public education. EIS-FELA members are calling on Shetland Island Council to ensure that publicly funded education remains in public hands to ensure a more stable learning experience for students where decisions are not financially motivated.