by Billy Youngson
A disabled Stuartfield woman has backed calls to secure a future for rural post offices.
Multiple sclerosis sufferer Elaine Rebecca says her community will break down if changes in the child benefit system see post offices shut up shop.
Already Maud postmaster Allison Taylor has raised fears she could lose staff due to new benefit procedures. Allowances are set to be paid directly into bank accounts - instead of collected at the post office.
Mrs Rebecca, of 2 Knock Street, says less-able people in rural communities will become victims of the change.
She said: "The post office is an integral part of this community for everyone of every age.
"Without it, the whole community would be at a lose. It is a primary service. It would be like someone saying we couldn't have water out here.
The housebound mother relies on husband, Douglas, to collect her disability allowance every week. He faces a 15-minute round trip to Mintlaw if the post service is taken away from Stuartfield.
He said: "I have a car and it is just a little more of a hindrance for me if I had to do that. But there are elderly people who would be left in a much worse position than we are.
"They want to be independent but this would prevent them from doing that. They would be forced to get others to make time to help them do something they could easily do if the post office remains open.
"To an elderly person Mintlaw may as well be Aberdeen or a 100 miles away."
He added: "And children use the post office for their accounts. They may moan about having to walk up there but at least they can do that."
If it closes they won't be able to go to Mintlaw without someone to drive them, Mr Rebecca says.
"Children don't have the money to be paying for buses back and forth to Mintlaw."
His wife Elaine has been battling her illness for almost 13 years, with her condition deteriorating in the last 12 months.
She said: "I am set for an operation which will ease my situation. I won't be as housebound as I am.
"I would love to be able to go to the post office and get my allowance for myself but I am getting ever more worried that I won't be able to that.
Her husband added: "People look for the basic services, like the post office, when they are going to buy a home.
"They will turn away from Stuartfield, and many other communities, if the post office is taken away from us."
Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has thrown his weight behind the campaign.
Last week he tabled a parliamentary motion calling for a level playing field for post offices.
He said: "This is an issue of vital importance to rural communities such as Banff and Buchan.
"The banks have mainly deserted our rural communities and by choosing
a post office card account, local people can help ensure the survival of
their local post office."
© 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd