John O’ Groat Journal review: February 4, 2010

THE PAPER leads on its front page with news of a “Save Pennyland Primary School” campaign, in advance of the findings of Highland Council’s cuts review, currently underway.
Over 30 people attended a parent council meeting at the school, on Tuesday night, which unanimously backed the idea of a petition supported by a Facebook page. The campaigners are pre-empting the review findings, on the basis that, once these are known, it might be too late to do anything about them. A central plank of the campaign is to alert the community to the fact that the review is underway and school groupings in both Wick and Thurso are being considered which could result in amalgamations or closures.
Still on local education, another front page piece warns that a total of 42 classroom assistant jobs could be axed as part of the cutbacks. Reporter Gordon Calder confirmed the figure with a local authority spokesman although he pointed out the posts are part-time and the staff involved work a varied number of hours. The proposal, which could result in over 300 classroom assistants in primary schools being made redundant across the Highlands, was criticised by a Thurso mother who claimed it would impact on local pupils and teachers.

The remaining story on P1, the restructuring of the coastguard service, provokes a comment from area MSP Jamie Stone who says it could pose “a threat to lives and safety” in the Pentland Firth. He raised his concerns during a debate in the Scottish Parliament. Under the reorganisation, 10 out of the UK’s 18 round-the-clock coastguard centres would close, in an effort to reduce costs and modernise the service.

Elsewhere in the paper, Stagecoach has committed itself to addressing persistent complaints that have dogged its scheduled service between Caithness and Inverness. The company has sought to counter disquiet over it plans to operate a direct service from Thurso to Inverness and it is considering further speeding up the journey by doing away the current detour into Tain.

There is jubilation over the North Highland College’s UHI becoming part of Scotland’s newest university, in a historic move which is expected to benefit the educational economic and social development of the area. The award of university status by the Privy Council on Wednesday, which may also help to keep young people in the area, was widely welcomed by politicians, councillors, business representative and students.

Thurso man Richard McDonald, a project manager for offshore oil and gas company Aker solutions is taking part in this year’s Inverness half marathon, in March, to raise funds for Highland Hospice and has invited local folk to join him.

Local people are being given information on who to turn to when, either they, or someone they know is unwell, as part of a new awareness campaign launched this week. Posters will be displayed in hospital GP surgeries and pharmacies to highlight the wide range of healthcare services available through the NHS, in a bid to help people choose the service best suited to treat their illness or injury Leaflets will also be available for anyone who wants to take the information away with them to refer to, at a later date.

In an inside picture piece, Pulteneytown Academy announces that school photos, events and even the lunch menu are now available on a new website launched this week. It can be located by visiting

On a less happy note, Highland Council has announced that fortnightly collections of general rubbish are to be introduced in April. An increased recycling service is on the cards, to help households in Caithness cope with the change which will see black or green bins being uplifted every second week. People, who currently have a recycling box collection, will be given blue-wheeled recycling bins which will accept a wider range of materials-paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, food tins and drink cans. These will be collected fortnightly, alternating with a fortnightly collection of general waste from green or black bins.

Success on the football pitches for Thurso who beat Golspie Sutherland 3-1 in the push up the PSG North Caley League and Halkirk put five past Bonar Bridge, strengthening their claim on the title.