A SCOTTISH trainee butcher who helped ensure housebound customers were properly fed throughout the Coronavirus pandemic has been recognised with a national award.

Customers of Hugh Black and Son butchers in Coatbridge's High Street voted in their droves to secure teenager Nicky Presland the coveted Scottish Craft Butchers 'Extra Mile' Award in their annual training awards.

The popular apprentice insists he 'did nothing' but expressed his delight that so many customers had taken the time to vote for him.

"I had a smile on my face but a lump in my throat when I learned of the award," said Nicky. "It was so humbling to read some of the amazing things people said about me."

Nicky, while working full time at the butchers, has gone out of his way to make sure those shielding get their meat parcels – even on his days off. Although the company does not operate a delivery service, Nicky would use his free time to get essential supplies to his customers.

"I don't have transport so it meant carrying the shopping wherever it was needed which was great exercise for me," he said, "but I would jump in a taxi if the weather was really bad.

"I just wanted to help those people who were struggling," said 18-year-old Nicky. "They needed their supplies and I had time on my hands – I wasn't doing anything else. I would never see people going without. If there is something I can do to help, I will."

Customers said Nicky was often the only person they saw to speak to all week and they looked forward to his deliveries.

"I would knock at the door, leave their shopping on the doorstep and stand back," he explained. "Then we'd get a wee blether when they came out. My Gran was shielding and I know how much it means to keep some safe human contact and be able to rely on a supply of fresh food. I'm happy to do what I can – I just wish I could do more."

Nicky topped nominations for apprentice butchers from all over Scotland in the annual awards sponsored by SQA, the Scotch Butchers Club and Legal Rooms.

Also taking a top title at this year's training awards was 19-year-old Ariane Bennett who works for her family's Arbroath butchers DH Robertson. She secured the Scottish Craft Butchers' SVQ Level 2 Apprentice Of The Year Award.

Ariane's achievement recognises how she adapted her studies to allow video-link assessments of her work to take the place of physical visits by assessors during the current Coronavirus pandemic and how she used all her spare time to hone her skills and advance her studies.

"It was a whole new training platform but it worked really well," said Ariane. "I'm absolutely thrilled to get this award – it's a really big deal. To be rewarded for doing something you love is really special."

St Andrews butchers scooped the remaining three training awards with newly qualified butcher Michael Carrubba of Minicks of St Andrews winning the SVQ Level 3 Apprentice Of The Year title and Balgove Larder securing both the Scottish Craft Butchers Mentor Of The Year and Training Partner Of The Year, accolades.

Michael completed his butcher apprenticeship and his Federation Diploma at Minicks of St Andrews in under two years.

Executive manager of Scottish Craft Butchers, Gordon King, explained that nearly 200 apprentice butchers throughout Scotland have been at the frontline during the past challenging year. Mr Kind said: "Our industry has worked really hard to keep this country fed with no break and no complaining," he said. "These awards are our way of saying 'Thank You' to the apprentices who have all stepped up to the plate to support their employers and their customers and to recognise how difficult training has been.

"Nominations were received from all over Scotland – Shetland to Jedburgh and out to the islands – and the winners are exceptional examples of a tremendous group of committed and enthusiastic apprentice butchers," added Mr King.

"The success of the training programme during Covid shows how we can adapt and develop to ensure the apprentices who represent the future of this industry do not lose out."