Student settles out of court over study aid

May 29, 1998

An Aberdeen University student who was suing his estranged mother for a contribution towards his living costs has reached a confidential out-of-court settlement.

Patrick Macdonald, a third-year law student aged 20, was seeking Pounds 400 a month from his solicitor mother Margaret to support him through his course. He has lived with his father, Hugh, an unemployed advocate, since his parents' divorce in 1993.

Sheriff Daphne Robertson had ruled that Mrs Macdonald should make an interim payment of Pounds 60 a month until a full hearing could take place.

Mr Macdonald and his mother reached the settlement just as the case was due to come before Edinburgh Sheriff Court. The figure agreed is understood to be more than the Pounds 60 interim payment.

Martin Burns, Mr Macdonald's solicitor, refused to discuss the settlement but said Mr Macdonald was happy with the agreement.

"Patrick is just relieved that it's all over," he said.

When the case began, Mr Macdonald was said not to want the financial burden of a student loan. But the court was then told he had been awarded the maximum loan, which he planned to use to repay a loan from his uncle.

Sheriff Robertson said the student loan should be taken into account in assessing his resources, since his uncle had not demanded repayment. The loan, maximum grant and Mrs Macdonald's contribution totalled Pounds 9 towards monthly costs of Pounds 360 for food and books.

Mr Macdonald did not want to take up part-time work because this would interfere with his studies. But the sheriff said many students worked part-time to meet the shortfall between loans, grants and their living costs. On the basis of a National Union of Students survey, she said that if Mr Macdonald earned Pounds 3 an hour, he could make up the shortfall by working 14 hours a week, the "middle range" of the NUS survey.

Shamin Akhtar, president of NUS Scotland, said: "We would like to see students having independent status so that they don't have to be in the position of taking decisions such as Patrick has had to take."

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