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Swan needs new sources of income to avoid becoming a museum exhibit, trustees warn

Members of the Swan Trust receiving a cheque for £3,000 from Aith pupils earlier this week. Photo courtesy of the Swan Trust.

THE SWAN Trust has received a much-needed financial boost after being presented with a £3,000 donation from local schoolchildren amid fears over the sail training boat’s future.

Pupils from Aith Junior High School handed over the money to trustees on Wednesday. The donation comes via the Youth Philanthropy Initiative, which encourages children to take part in Dragons’ Den style events to promote chosen charities.

The historic sailing training boat allows groups to learn new skills on trips, with countless locals – including a substantial number of young people – having enjoyed time on the Swan over the last number of decades.

Swan Trust secretary Peter Campbell said: “We’re delighted to have received this donation, and very heartened by the fact that it’s come through the Youth Philanthropy Initiative, and that a group of young people in Aith school saw fit to support the Swan, to nominate it as their charity.

“It suggests they see real value in the Swan, and what its aims are, and what it’s achieving.”

However, doubts have been cast over its future amid financial cuts, including a reduction in the grant it receives from Shetland Charitable Trust as that organisation continues to pare back its spending.

Swan Trust secretary Peter Campbell.

Swan Trust vice chairman Tommy Allan said earlier this week that, if its financial standing doesn’t improve, it may even result in the boat becoming a museum exhibit – which would be “a sad day for Shetland”.

Charitable trust funding peaked at £72,000 a year, but is being reduced by 25 per cent a year. Last year it dropped to around £54,000 and this year it stands at £36,000.

Campbell said the annual operating costs were between £90,000 and £100,000, and it was becoming more and more challenging to plug that gap in the short April-September season.

“We are facing a potentially difficult period,” he said. “It’s difficult, in the short season, to be able to generate the income that’s necessary to sustain the boat. As the grant is to decline, it’s going to be more and more difficult.

“Ultimately we could just have it as a museum piece tied up at Hay’s Dock, or it’s old and goes elsewhere, which would be a great disappointment for everybody. It’s become quite an iconic symbol.”

Campbell said the trust would be looking into Heritage Lottery funding and other ways of attracting new income. He feels it will also need to “advertise more and promote ourselves better than we’ve done in the past”.