Independent councillors are to blame for Shetland's excessively high spending on education, the Accounts Commission concludes in its latest best value review of local authorities.
The public spending watchdog accuses councillors of dodging difficult decisions on school closures last year, despite a three-year review of provision carried out by a group of elected members and officials. The commission's inquiry bluntly suggests they were more concerned about their own electoral patches than the efficiency of overall council services.
Shetland has higher running costs for primaries and secondaries than any other Scottish authority - pound;5,870 and pound;9,493 per pupil respectively compared with national averages of pound;3,537 and pound;5,058, according to the latest figures for 2003-04. The council would have trimmed more than Pounds 500,000 from its pound;41 million education budget had councillors approved the closure of five primaries and one secondary.