Besieged by severe economic problems and massive cuts in social services, mainland Scotland has been looking with envious eyes at its neighbors in the far north Shetland Islands who are experiencing unprecedented prosperity from a special welfare fund designed to cream off some North Sea oil profits for the local community.
Shetland Islands Council, which is responsible for maintainig public and social services in the area, has put over f18 million ($43.2 million) into a reserve account as a result of an agreement made years ago with the international petroleum companies that a fixed proportion of earnings from nearby oil sites should be spent on local-benefits schemes. The needy, the disabled. and the elderly have been steadily helped by the welfare fund.
Bonus payments of f100 pounds each year have been made to 3,000 Shetland pensioners, taking a f300,000 slice from what is regarded as the "oil tax" account. New Volvo cars costing over f4,000 each have been given to 23 disabled drivers to replace outdated vehicles.
More than f100,000 has been given to pensioners for home improvements. Nearly 30 families with handicapped or elderly members have been given cash for holiday tr ips to the UK mainland.