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Amenity trust 'moving in the right direction'

| Written by Chris Cope

New Shetland Amenity Trust chairwoman Ruth Mackenzie. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News New Shetland Amenity Trust chairwoman Ruth Mackenzie. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

THE NEW chairwoman of Shetland Amenity Trust (SAT) says the organisation is "certainly moving ahead" with its streamlining process as it looks to cut jobs.

Ruth Mackenzie, who was elected as chair at the trust's AGM in Lerwick on Wednesday, described her role as "very daunting" as she looks ahead to presiding over the trust for at least the next year.

The former teacher was the only nominee for the position as she replaced acting head George Sutherland, who had been in the role after Brian Gregson resigned on health grounds in September.

Speaking after the AGM, Mackenzie said she had "tremendous concern" for staff as the trust decides which jobs need to go to reduce its deficit by at least £200,000 by the end of the financial year.

Shetland Amenity Trust offices in Lerwick. Shetland Amenity Trust offices in Lerwick.

"I think the amenity trust does a lot of great work, but it has got itself into a difficult situation at the moment and we need to see it through, because it's left a tremendous legacy," she said.

"We've got a lot of employees at the trust who are very committed, and it's very sad that we're having to face the challenges that we have at the moment, but that's the conditions."

It is thought that up to 12 jobs could go in a restructuring process which could last well into November, with unions involved from the beginning.

Mackenzie was unable to offer any firmer details but she said work is progressing.

The trust runs the Shetland Museum and Archives on behalf of Shetland Islands Council and is also supported annually with £1.3 million from Shetland Charitable Trust.

In light of calls for the charitable trust - which vowed alongside the SIC and VisitScotland to "collectively support" the SAT throughout its restructuring - to offer more money to bridge the gap, it is understood that the amenity trust is working to rectify its situation itself.

"The process has begun and it is making progress, and hopefully we're moving in the right direction," Mackenzie said.

"I can't say a lot about the details of the process, because we're in a position where if employees choose to appeal any decisions that are made, they come to us, and we have to keep at arms length from that process for the time being. But it is certainly moving ahead.

"We're very keen to ensure that all staff have the opportunity to contribute and to make sure that their views and ideas are known, and they're certainly been forthcoming with lots of ideas and suggestions, some of which may be able to work and some of which sadly probably won't, but that's the position at the moment."

Mackenzie, who has been a trustee for around a year and a half, was the last headteacher at Bressay Primary School before it shut in 2014.

She has also chaired the local children's hearing system, and has been a panel member for 13 years.

"Both roles involve being involved with people, and quite often people who are in challenging and difficult circumstances," Mackenzie said.

The former teacher, meanwhile, will be joined in the SAT boardroom this year by vice-chairmen George Sutherland and Alastair Hamilton.

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