Figures for Orkney show that the number of primaries and secondaries which are more than 60 per cent empty has doubled in the past year.
But Lesley Manson, Orkney's director of education, described the percentages as meaningless. "The one thing that is constant is that half the schools are on islands and you cannot rationalise schools between two islands. There has also been a definite drift from islands and rural areas to more central areas," Mr Manson said.
He added: "We do not regard this as a problem to address but an inevitability of having schools in rural and island areas."