Petition raises 1,600 signatures

A Lerwick man says he has gathered 1,600 signatures from people across the isles in a petition protesting against changes to Shetland Charitable Trust’s Christmas grant scheme.

Sandy McMillan, from the town’s South Lochside, has gathered widespread support over three months since the unpopular decision was made.

In February the trust opted to cut the benefit it offers to pensioners and disabled people. At that time trustees voted in favour of paring back the £361,800 bonus to £100,000.

The decision proved controversial, with trustee Allison Duncan insisting the move was an attack on society’s most vulnerable people.

But trust chairman Bobby Hunter said changes in the benefit system made the grant scheme increasingly difficult to administer. Cutting the bonus, he said, was not about saving money, but about putting it in the right place.

The decision has angered Mr McMillan, who took up the cause after hearing from a friend in Whalsay.

His petition calls on the trust to re-examine its decision and have the full bonus – which has been handed out since 1979 – re-instated.

“I’ve been from Unst to Fair Isle, sending it round the local shops,” he said.

Asked why the bonus was so important he insisted: “It’s about the only thing that the people of Shetland get from the oil fund.”

He said there had been a lot of support in favour of retaining the previous level of bonus since the petition started doing the rounds.

“Generally folk were saying how it helps them financially around Christmas time with various things. It’s an expensive time of year for the pensioners.”

Signatures are still being gathered online through the change.orgwebsite.

Mr Hunter told The Shetland Times: “I understand folk has the right to come with a petition about it. What we are trying to do is the best we can and focus funds at folk that need them.”


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