A national disgrace (Alan F Hickman)

Occasionally a friend passes on to me a copy of The Shetland Times which brings back happy memories.

My wife and I were the Salvation Army officers at Lerwick from 1972 to 1974. Our son Mark is a “peerie” Shetlander, although at the age of 42 is not so peerie any more!

I was particularly interested to read in your 16th January issue of the sterling work being undertaken by Angela Nunn and her supporters in attempting to support those who find themselves in need of food parcels.

All those years ago we commenced the first senior citizens’ luncheon club in Lerwick. Our aim, then, was to tackle loneliness which, we were told, did not exist in Shetland; the fact that others swiftly followed disproved that theory.

We never, then, envisaged that there would ever be a need for food banks on any scale either in Shetland or elsewhere in the UK. True, we occasionally gave out a food parcel but the recipients were largely those with alcohol, drug or other internal problems … even more rarely the emergency need that can arise anywhere.

But on a bigger scale … no way. Our nation had, at last, abolished primary poverty; and we were convinced that it would never return to our shores. How wrong we were as your article shows.

It is a national disgrace that that one of the top 10 richest countries on earth; that can sell racehorse foals with a starting price bid of one million guineas, which imports Merc’s as if they were the price of Dinky toys and can pay bankers a seven-figure sum plus bonuses, of course should have people queuing for food handouts.

Nor are the recipients feckless scroungers who are unwilling to work but those, who through no fault of their own cannot meet their day-to-day expenses.

Those whose benefits have been delayed, those on minimum wage, on zero hours contracts, who have been made redundant as a conglomerate “improves” its standing by taking over a rival and closing it down.

Political? Of course it is political … not party political, but political nevertheless. Politics is about how society deals with people. The Christian Gospel is in the midst of that.

To feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, assist in rehabilitating the addict, to care for the poor and unfortunate of earth’s children are all political acts.

If one part of society creates a problem, then it behoves a caring part of society to aim to redress the balance, however the odds are stacked.

Those valiant workers are doing just that. My prayers and thanks go to them. Keep up the good work.

But, alongside that, my prayer is that right-thinking people of all faiths and none will raise their voices in protest at a system which makes it necessary.

Far better to have fences at the top of the cliffs than ambulances at the bottom; but when those fences are removed, thank God for those manning the “ambulances”.

Alan F Hickman
Major, Salvation Army
(Lieutenant when appointed to Lerwick)
1 The Farm,
Keighley Road,


Add Your Comment
  • Peter Long

    • February 25th, 2015 6:04

    Well said Major.

  • Tim Parkinson

    • March 2nd, 2015 19:54

    I don’t see what the problem is!!??

    Back in September there was a referendum.

    At the beginning, the papers and the politicians wanted it to be about currency (£) and oil and Tescos pulling oot o Scotland if it became independent.

    Then they started asking the people, because the polls looked bad!

    Before long they came round to the people’s way of thinking.

    Conservatives , Greens, Labour SNP and Lib Democrats all agreed across the board that what the people of Scotland wanted most was “Social Justice”.

    All of the promises commitments and pledges at the end was on who could deliver the most of it and the quickest.

    So given that was a cross party pledge…..surely that’s what every penny of income tax, VAT National Insurance and oil royalties is now going on isn’t it??
    Why do we need food banks?

    Oh silly me…did we believe the political partners or big industry and business yet again??

    Apparently they have removed the word “gullible ” from the dictionary!


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