The casting vote by the convener of the Western Isles Council ensured the closure of the last two year secondary school in the Outer Isles, ending a network that served generations of island pupils.

A lengthy debate finished with councillors split 15-15 over the proposal to close Lionel school in Ness at the north end of Lewis, so it was left council convenor Norman Macdonald to decide the matter

The closure left some parents in tears. It leaves pupils with an hour's journey to get to School in Stornoway from next session and an hour to get home.

But Education chair Catriona Stewart said only eight pupils S1 and S2 now attended the school.

According to the council as many as 75 per cent of the age group in Lionel's catchment area already attend the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway, their parents having already decided to bypass the local school for the educational benefits of the larger school the council has promoted.

But the schools supporters were angered that a new councillor who was unopposed in a council by-election this week, and who was known to support the school's retention, was unable to vote. He does not take up his duties as a councillor until next month, when the by-election would have been held had here been other candidates.

Local SNP councillor Kenneth MacLeod said after the meeting "The public gallery was full of parents from Lionel and Ness and they were very disappointed especially coming so close in the vote. It will mean that pupils will have to be in a bus for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening back from Stornoway. That's two hours a day and a lot of travelling for pupils, some as young as 11."

He said the network of small secondaries had worked well in the Western Isles for 70 or 80 years, and couldn't see why it wouldn't work well in the future.