25th September 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Uncharitable to trustees (Jonathan Wills)

Ian Tinkler (Readers’ Views, The Shetland Times, 18th September) wonders why the Shetland Charitable Trust is so concerned about being short of funds that it’s making “a raft of cuts” and savaging “the heritage and culture of Shetland”.

Mr Tinkler says trustees should have “the common decency” to answer the questions he raises about the trust’s financial policies. In fact, we’ve already done so but as he seems to have missed it I’ll try again.

The reason for the trust’s reduced spending, as we’ve repeatedly explained in public, is that for years the former trustees (with the best will in the world and wishing to be kind to all) spent more than the trust was earning, sometimes considerably more.

What the present trustees, whom Mr Tinkler so reviles, are trying to do is bring spending back in line with income and stop using capital as if it were earnings. That’s the only way to ensure the trust maintains its value for the benefit of future generations.

I assume Mr Tinkler agrees with that aim. His problem seems to be that he doesn’t like the immediate consequences of the new, more prudent, financial policy. Nor do I, but only the government can print money. The charitable trust can’t. That’s why we’re having to reduce grants to all sorts of things that we’d much rather support at the former level.

If he read what’s been reported in the media about this, or if he read the publicly available minutes of trust meetings, Mr Tinkler would know that if the charitable trust were to reduce its spending tomorrow to what it can actually afford, the cuts to the various organisations we support would be much more severe.

Instead, the trust is phasing in the cuts over several years, to give the beneficiaries time to adjust. This decision means the trust will actually spend well over a million pounds of its capital to “soften the blow”.

The irony is that the trust’s financial prospects would be considerably better if Mr Tinkler and his associates had not supported a lengthy campaign attempting to sabotage the Viking Energy windfarm project, which is the only prospect of “millions and millions” of new funds coming into the trust’s coffers.

The campaign failed but as a direct result of it there has been a lengthy delay and it’s unlikely that Viking will now produce significant income for the trust until after 2020. Whose fault is that?

The £10 million the trust has invested in Viking so far is not some idle, reckless speculation, as Mr Tinkler suggests, yet again, but was agreed after taking the best available technical and financial advice (from people whom he also despises).

When Viking starts producing returns, they will support the many good causes he accuses us of savaging – in his imagination because we have an irrational, sadistic desire to “mimic” Messrs Cameron and Osborne and inflict austerity on trust beneficiaries, just for the hell of it.

None of the above will alter Mr Tinkler’s uncharitable view of the trustees’ character and motives, but I think it’s always a good idea to respond to his invective, just in case people who don’t know him should get the wrong end of the stick, as he has done so often.

Jonathan Wills
Sundside,
Bressay.

15 comments

  1. Ali Inkster

    Oh dear Jonathan First off VE is not the only opportunity to refill trust and council coffers, The council which you were a prominent member of failed to capitalise on the opportunity presented by Total. For some reason you decided that what was possible in the 1970s was impossible in the 21st century. Instead you decided to throw all our eggs in one basket. You might wish to take this opportunity to explain why.

    Reply
  2. Kathy Greaves

    Many of us would still like the chance to say how our oil funds are spent.

    This from SCT webpage:

    “In response to demands from charity regulator OSCR, Shetland Charitable Trust was instructed to come forward with proposals to reform its governance to bring it into line with charity law, especially to address the dominance of local authority councillors acting as trustees.”

    and:

    “Shetland Charitable Trust (SCT)is a registered charity which exists to benefit the inhabitants of Shetland. Its Trust Deed states that its aim is to provide public benefit to and improve the quality of life for the people of Shetland, especially in the areas of: Social care and welfare, Arts, culture, sport and recreation, education, the environment, natural history and heritage. ”

    “There is considerable concern that the Charitable trusts involvement with Viking Energy is contrary to the wishes of the majority of the Shetland community, and that since the entire Shetland community is the beneficiary of the Trust, this is unfair and unprincipled behaviours by a charity.”

    So, nothing’s changed there, then. It acknowledges quite clearly that the SCT’s involvement with VE, even under the banner of Shetland Renewables is not accepted by the Shetland community.

    Reply
  3. Johan Adamson

    Viking was not delayed by Sustainable Shetland. Viking is STILL delayed by the non-appearance of either the finance for or agreements with the National Grid on the cable from Shetland to mainland Scotland.

    In order to successfully invest you need to hold a balanced portfolio – not £10 million in one investment which will cost more than the trust has, is too risky, and will sacrifice our tourism market as well as the residents in the centre of the Shetland mainland.

    Reply
  4. John N Hunter

    Can I ask if Councillor Wills has any inside information on when the inter connector will be built? As far as I am concerned any possibility the VE will be built is disappearing into the sunset. The Western Isles are a lot closer to the Scottish mainland and as far as I can see from what I can find online they have been promised a possibility that their inter connector will be built in 2020.

    Reply
  5. Sandy McMillan

    Is it not time that the Shetland Charitable Trust, along with the Council, Held a Public meeting to explain exactly where the SCT are heading, It all seems to be very secretive, no one seem to know what their role is when it come to Viking Energy, It seem a while since VE asked for Financial backing from the SCT, who is helping VE out, At one time VE was knocking at the door of SCT every few month for £6 million +, Do we know exactly what they have been given over the years, What seems to have been for there wages bill only, as like the last School guys received millions and did not turn one TURF, VE seems to be doing the same. getting cash for old rope.

    Reply
    • Johan Adamson

      Are the SIC also supporting VE in terms of admin and staff costs?

      Reply
  6. iantinkler

    will briefly respond to Mr. Wills here and will respond at length, after a little more research and advise. Jonathan seems to be in denial or perhaps is just unable to be rational about Viking Energy. He claims, I personally, have somehow, sabotaged the Viking project. I am flattered he feels I have such power, sadly I do not. The delay in progressing this project is down to the failure of progress with the interconnector, no more, no less. Even the most close minded must be aware of this. To claim otherwise is a tad disingenuous. Wills claims the £10million invested ( gifted) to Viking Energy was only after, “Taking the best available technical and financial advise”, this simply is not true. Events have shown that advice to be hopelessly flawed. The briefest of research into those selective advisers displays obvious shortcomings and conflicts of interest. I had to laugh at his comment that The Trusts present austerity measures are down to previous overspends by former Trustees. My goodness not only is The SCT mimicking Cameron and Osborne, with their cuts, but now Wills is parroting out the old Tory excuses and dogma!!! “Do not blame us it was those before us”

    Reply
    • Ali Inkster

      Jonathan was also a prominent member of the overspending trust/council, and now has the gall to blame others for the mess it is in.

      Reply
  7. Linda Tait

    So the best available technical and financial advice supported a project that is highly likely to suffer from costs spiralling out of control and is already well behind schedule? The “best available” wasn’t very good, was it! You don’t need to be Einstein to foresee the risks a development of this scale involves, not to mention the near-certainty of robust and vocal opposition.

    Reply
  8. David Spence

    nd the SIC, are not taking into consideration what the people of Shetland think and feel about a project which will not benefit Shetland that much, and will line the pockets of the very few, whose sole interest is this of their own financial profiting regardless to anything else.

    I think it is only fair to the people of Shetland to be told (+/- 5%) what the actual cost of the VEP will be, what the cost of the Interconnector will be, what VEP will have to pay per year to her Majesty’s Treasury for a cable (or two) laying on the seabed between Shetland and mainland Scotland, what is the estimated annual costs for maintenance shall be, what is the estimated income the VEP will bring to Shetland in comparison to other investors and many more questions which have failed to be answered. I do think it is that hard a job to answer the questions………afterall, you would need to know the answer to such questions before you decided to go ahead with such a project.

    So VEP, come with some figures, publish them in the Shetland Times so as many people in Shetland can see what costs may be involved…………………….and please do not refer to some website or other source of information…………..get the figures, publish them in the Shetland Times.

    Reply
  9. David Spence

    It seems very evident, like a certain golf course just south of Aberdeen, that the SCT and the SIC, are not taking into consideration what the people of Shetland think and feel about a project which will not benefit Shetland that much (or this is very much the impression) and will line the pockets of the very few, whose sole interest is this of their own financial profiting regardless to anything else.

    I think it is only fair to the people of Shetland to be told (+/- 5%) what the actual cost of the VEP will be, what the cost of the Interconnector will be, what VEP will have to pay per year to her Majesty’s Treasury for a cable (or two) laying on the seabed between Shetland and mainland Scotland, what is the estimated annual costs for maintenance shall be, what is the estimated income the VEP will bring to Shetland in comparison to other investors and many more questions which have failed to be answered. I do not think it is that hard a job to answer the questions………afterall, you would need to know the answer to such questions before you decided to go ahead with such a project.

    So VEP, come with some figures, publish them in the Shetland Times so as many people in Shetland can see what costs may be involved…………………….and please do not refer to some website or other source of information…………..get the figures, publish them in the Shetland Times.

    Reply
  10. Kathy Greaves

    David, we will never be told the costs because they don’t know, and it is all veiled in secrecy anyway. It is not for the likes of the ordinary man or woman in the street to know any details, just for those ‘in power’.

    Reply
  11. ian

    I was Staggered when Dr. Wills claimed on Facebook he and the SCT was ignorant about what I had written below, (offshore wind farms, are enabled and dependant on the Viking Energy interconnector !!! ) What I find it most disturbing, is that Dr Wills, whom has made his living as a wildlife guide, so endorses a project like, Viking Energy that would open up Shetland to the massive environmental destruction. Both onshore and offshore wind farms, are enabled and dependant on the Viking Energy interconnector being completed. The proposed multiple wind farms enabled by this interconnector, would in all probability, wipe out Shetlands Gannets, and seabirds colonies as well as seriously damage Shetland Tourist and fishing industries. (I invite comments ignorant, incompetant or disingenuous to claim such Dr Wills?)
    References: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-34375295
    http://www.shetlandtimes.co.uk/2011/05/27/five-sites-identified-around-shetland-for-possible-offshore-windfarm-development

    Reply
  12. Kathy Greaves

    What I find, Ian, to be most disturbing, and most unacceptable, is that Jonathan Wills and others should have two or three votes to allow a giant windfarm for Shetland (depending on how many hats they have worn/are wearing as councillor, SCT trustee and VE employee), whilst the rest of us don’t even get one vote. Our – majority – voice is not heard and we are taken no notice of.

    Reply

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