Trust and council appoint top QC to give legal opinion on way forward
Shetland Charitable Trust and Shetland Islands Council have together appointed one of Scotland’s top lawyers to give a legal opinion on whether the trust needs to reform its constitution and reduce the number of councillor-trustees.
Roy Martin QC, a former Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, specialises in environmental law but most recently acted for the Trump Organisation, owned by US tycoon Donald Trump, who is trying to build a luxury golf resort at Menie north of Aberdeen. Mr Martin represented the company in a case brought by an elderly lady who wanted a judicial review into the scheme. She later abandoned it although Trump is still seeking legal costs.
The choice of Mr Martin follows a trust meeting in September at which attempts to dilute the number of councillors on the trust (21 of the 22 currently sit on it with two independents) were thwarted by convener Sandy Cluness who believes the trust does not need to reform. Charities regulator OSCR is asking the trust to distance itself from the council.
The decision to seek legal advice was taken and the task of securing an appropriate lawyer handed over to trust general manager Ann Black and council chief executive Alistair Buchan.
Mr Martin will be asked to determine whether the constitution of the trust needs to be changed in light of current OSCR opinion and trust regulations and make any necessary recommendations for the future governance of the trust.
The council is also to ask Mr Martin to provide his legal opinion on the issue of grouping the trust and council financial accounts. This matter has been repeatedly highlighted by Audit Scotland and most recently the Accounts Commission in its report into the SIC.
No cost has been agreed for the work but trust general manager Ann Black said she would report back to trustees on this issue as soon as possible.
Commenting on the appointment, Mr Buchan said: “It was clear that trustees are keen to get high quality advice in an effort to clarify all the options available to them. Mr Martin is a very highly respected legal figure, so Ann and I are delighted we’ve been able to secure his services.”
Ms Black said: “The timescales and costs of getting legal opinion were raised by trustees at the meeting on the 8th. Now that Mr Martin has been appointed, we are optimistic that we will receive his advice before Christmas. The full costs of the piece of work cannot be finalised at this stage, but we will report back to trustees as soon as possible.”