AN angry church minister is holding a free Santa's Grotto in Largs - after being 'appalled' at families being charged £12 per child to see Father Christmas.

Reverend Dr Graham McWilliams, who is the minister for both St Columba's Parish Church and Fairlie Parish, believes the 'profiteering' sends out the wrong message during a cost of living crisis.

He says that businesses should not be cashing in from children seeing Santa.

In his Christmas church newsletter, the local minister blasted businesses using the treat as a way to exploit locals.

He said: "As we fast approach the festive period, and with the adverts on the television and radio already telling us of how best to spend our hard-earned money for Christmas, we are living in difficult times.

"While not everyone may agree with me, I believe that spending our limited money on presents which are easily forgotten or easily discarded pales into insignificance than using our finances for keeping warm and eating well.

"This year we all recognise the economic situation around us.

"Recently, I visited a Christmas event where there was a charge of £12 for each child to see Santa.

"I felt quite appalled by this and so, at the Advent Fayre in St Columba’s Parsh Church on December 10, families will have the opportunity for their children to visit Santa in his grotto and receive a selection box, free of charge.

"Christmas time is definitely a time of celebration and festivities, but it doesn’t need to be a time of expense and debt. Across the village and within Largs, during this time of Advent as we journey to Christmas, there will be lots of opportunities for anyone who wishes to do so to go into church buildings and other community spaces where a warmth of welcome will only be seconded to the warmth of the building. And in many of these spaces there will be a readiness of hot food and hot drinks.

"I would encourage you to be brave enough to go into these spaces, maybe even arrange to meet a friend there, and save on heating your home for a few hours and keep that money so that your family can enjoy a bit of festive cheer on the big day."

Speaking to the News, Rev McWilliams added: "As a church minister, I was absolutely shocked by this.

"I did notice that there was no queue and nobody waiting to see Santa at the event and that was a telling factor. For a business to be charging £12 per child to see Santa is disgraceful.

"This is why last weekend at Fairlie Parish Church, and this Saturday at St Columba's Parish Church Advent Fayre, people can come and see Santa and there will be no charge.

"All proceeds from the Advent Fayre on the day will go to the Alara's Little Legs Appeal, so all contributions will be going to a very worthy cause."

The Advent Fayre at St Columba's takes place from 11am to 3pm. All welcome.