22nd May 2018
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Charitable trust won’t extend its consultation on governance reform

, by , in Public Affairs

Shetland Charitable Trust has rejected a request from anti-Viking Energy protest group Sustainable Shetland to extend the period of consultation on its proposal to reform governance of the trust.

Councillors agreed in November to put the document, which suggests reducing the number of councillor-trustees from 22 to eight but still retaining a slim majority control of the trust, out to public consultation and the deadline for any comments was last Friday.

Sustainable Shetland had been hoping for an extension so the views of all their members could be gathered at their January meeting. But instead trust general manager Ann Black has told Sustainable Shetland chairman Billy Fox that she and chairman Bill Manson would be willing to meet with him to discuss the organisation’s views on the reform.

Mr Fox said he was “disappointed” that the extension had not been granted. He welcomed the opportunity for the organi­sation, which is particularly concerned because the trust holds a 45 per cent share in the controversial windfarm proposal, to give its views directly before the charitable trust review group next discusses the matter again in January.

He said: “We’re definitely not happy with the current single proposal. [At our last meeting] we got an overwhelming show of hands that there was a level of concern.”

The findings of the consultation, prompted by pressure being exerted by charity regulator OSCR to ensure there is a clear dividing line between the SIC and the charitable trust, are expected to go before trustees for consideration in February.

Earlier this month SIC convener Sandy Cluness said he was prepared to go as far as the House of Lords to try and maintain the council’s hold on the charitable trust, which he believes has served the community well for the past three decades. He is concerned that if different factions were in control of the community’s £400 million-plus oil funds, it could be a recipe for damaging disagreements.

But the majority of members of the public who have responded, including Lerwick Community Council and letter writers to this newspaper, have expressed strong disapproval of the idea of councillor-trustees continuing to hold a controlling stake in a trust body which would be reduced from 24 to 15, with seven independent trustees appointed by the trust on a skills basis.

There have been calls from several quarters for all, or at least a majority, of trustees to be elected directly to the trust rather than by virtue of being a councillor.