28th September 2016
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Debate lost the point

With reference to Saturday’s Althing debate “The charitable trust cuts are not charitable”, I still maintain that the cuts are not charitable.

It is not charitable to take from people who need help just now, in times of austerity, especially when the money in question is specifically for the use and benefit of the people of Shetland.

The pop-up thesaurus on my computer shows that other meanings of the word “charitable” are generous, giving, benevolent, altruistic, helpful, liberal, bountiful and open handed.

Cutting funding to services which benefit our old and young alike, the disadvantaged, and those who need a helping hand is not charitable nor does it come within any of these adjectives.

The question put to the audience was not “should we accept cutbacks now to ensure charity in the future”, which is what the opponents of the motion forcefully promoted, and which it seemed to me was what was voted on as “finally, trustee James Smith … powerfully reiterated Jonathan Wills’ position that cuts were charitable if they helped guarantee the trust’s future ability to give money to good causes”.

Dr Wills criticised his former fellow councillors/trustees of overspending and mismanagement in the past which is why the trust finds itself in its current position – none of the spendthrift extravagances occurred in his watch apparently.

State-of-the-art care homes and leisure centres were all built without forward planning or financing for their upkeep and maintenance, but the charitable trust is insisting that we now pay for these overspends which councillors/trustees were responsible for, by cutting or reducing financial support in real terms to some groups and services which have enhanced many lives over the years.

The legal Deed of Trust 2012 states that the fund is for charitable purposes, covering many areas of Shetlanders lives, from endowing schools and education, sports, medical services, the preservation and improvement (of Shetland) for the benefit of the community, and so on.

It further states that “no power vested in the Trustees hereunder shall be exercised in such a manner that the Trust Fund or the income thereof shall be held, paid or applied other than purposes charitable in law”.

It also states that “No act of the Trustees shall be deemed to be ultra vires by reason only that individuals or bodies who do not form part of the community may or will benefit indirectly by such act.”

I did not read anywhere that the funds from the trust can be used for speculative investments.

So why advocate cutting charitable support for many for years to come, yet actively promote a project which is apparently excluded – Viking Energy – unless it has become a charitable organisation in law; the trust certainly seems to be open-handed where payments to Viking Energy are concerned.

But then I suppose it is all down to interpretation of the wording of the Deed, which should be totally unambiguous.

Kathy Greaves
Caergarth,
Scatness,
Sumburgh.

14 comments

  1. Johan Adamson

    Dr Wills answer to this was that we dont understand the difference between a charitable disbursement and an investment, and that the care homes should be run by the SIC. If it were not for SCT we wouldnt have any of this – so in the past they spent too much on stuff and we are not going to continue to support the stuff they set up. So what is going to happen to it all?

    In answer to my speech whereby I wanted my bairns to have Mareel et al, he said but because of SCT you do have these things, but on the other hand we shouldnt have had all this as it reduced SCT funds. Which is it?

    And I thought it was a debate, not real life, silly me.

    Reply
  2. Robert Duncan

    “It is not charitable to take from people who need help just now”

    And what of those who need help twenty, thirty, sixty years from now? What gives us the right to bleed the funds dry just because we had the good fortune to get here first?

    Reply
    • Johan Adamson

      A happy medium is perhaps the answer? Maybe it should have been all spent by now as the generation that were most disturbed by the oil are now pensioners? So there should always be this fund which is not for spending?

      Reply
      • Robert Duncan

        The first oil came in 1978, it’s hardly some distant memory. Yes there’s a happy medium to be struck but we aren’t even close to that yet. There are people who started graduate jobs at that time who aren’t even retired yet. We’re essentially talking about one full generation taking all the benefits they can and expecting the next lot to just get on as things were, and I can’t think of a less charitable approach than that.

  3. Kathy Greaves

    Robert’s comment is just nonsense. No-one was suggesting that the funds should be bled dry, just a bit of prudence and common sense is needed, and no more wasteful fanciful token ‘jobs’, such as funding a PR company. What happened to the council’s plans for a regular newsletter? The SCT could do the same, cost – nothing, just a press release to the Shetland Times.

    Reply
    • Robert Duncan

      I’d be inclined to agree on the PR issue, but that is a small cost next to the scale of cuts that are required to ensure the long term sustainability of SCT funds. In many ways I believe some PR support is however necessary, given the ignorance of the public to how the SCT operates, as evidenced in much of the discussion regarding SLAP.

      Reply
      • Johan Adamson

        Long term sustainability of SCT funds? Is quarter of a billion not enough?

        I dont think the public is ignorant re SLAP, just amazed at how we have lost control of our money and the community benefit that was supposed to be part of it.

      • Robert Duncan

        “Long term sustainability of SCT funds? Is quarter of a billion not enough?”

        Evidently not, since even optimistic estimates would see the funds depleted within my lifetime should I live to a healthy age. In fact it’s plausible even some born before oil arrived could still be alive by the potential “bust date” of 2059.

      • Johan Adamson

        Where is this ‘bust date’ and when was it calculated?

        The funds have increased again since 2008. Presumably we were investing in Viking as the cash cow to restock the coffers and that there is now no hope of that?

        We should not deplete the fund but we need to have a better plan, or some kind of plan really. What will be the point of having £250 million and depopulated isles?

  4. Brian Smith

    Like it not, the speakers against the motion on Saturday night trounced the proposers, who hadn’t done their homework or even thought about the subject.

    Reply
    • Johan Adamson

      I had done my homework and I did think about it, what I didn’t do was meet with Mr Tinkler and make sure I knew what he was saying. It was not a fair fight, the opponents were much more experienced, and I respected them too much, I should have butted in a lot more and been a bully.

      I think what is needed for SCT is more of a plan (like my plan for my money). Is it no a bit aimless to just stick to what you have earned being spent? Shouldn’t we plan for Shetland, re-prioritise? From time to time re-address Shetland’s wants and needs and make the spend appropriate? As I said at the debate, actuaries can calculate how long the money will last based on spending plans. What is the point of living like a church mice so you can pass on a pot of money to someone who will do the same, in perpetuity?

      Reply
    • Gordon Harmer

      Reminiscent of an independence hustings where a certain speaker knew nothing about Shetland fishing or crofting. People who live in glass houses……………………..

      Reply
  5. iantinkler

    Maybe, Brian, I was looking more at charity of actions than money cuts. My main point and reason for being in this debate, was to ask Dr. Wills directly if Viking Energy was still, a sure fire guarantee of £ millions and if so, why the need for any cuts at all? After all we have been promised those millions, by him for years. No risk, greatest advice ever being taken, sure money for nothing. You heard his answer, it was all my fault, his usual disingenuous prattle. My further points about HNP Engineering were not answered, by Dr. Wills, he admitted the Trustees can hire and fire directors, but are not responsible for their actions. However many Shetlanders hurt by the actions of SLAP, the SCT Trustees bear no responsibility, I think was the response. I withdrew from the debate, before finishing my summing up. Kindergarten accusations from Dr. Wills about me calling him nasty names in years past! “Human Filth!” being one such name!! Such silly accusations and interruptions rendering further adult discussion pointless. I actually never called him that all, just another Johnathon Wills pieces of make believe porkies. My actual comment, The Times, (July, 2014) was aimed at anyone whom put money before the health and welfare of the people of Shetland. This was with regard to Dr. Taylors report on the health impact of Viking Energy. The Health impact being dismissed by the Trustees out of hand, as being too late to take action on (THE HORSE HAS ALREDY BOLTED) being one comment. My words actually were “I am now truly angry and sadly I consider some Shetlanders as little more than human filth.” Bearing in mind the prime purpose of the SCT being to help the people of Shetland, their health and welfare must be paramount. Not a nice little earner for the privileged. I was angry and I feel my strong words were appropriate (2014) and still do. If Dr Wills, feels I was referring to him with those words that is his choice. If the cap fits and all that. I have much more to say, but that is for the future.

    Reply
  6. roy chamberlain

    looking at the work of the charitable trust from afar as it were (from Morecambe) I remember when it was set up it was a long term thing but folk were concerned that when homes etc were built no or little provision seemed to have been made to run these things long term, i believe that the thinking was that oil was an infinite milch cow and that income would be always forthcoming, but very little account was taken of future problems even after the crash of 2008 reading the stuff in the shetland times indicated that there should be a real hard look at the way funds were allocated and used and who needed them and what could we live without.
    we in lancashire are about to lose transport for disabled folk,libraries, day centres, museums, adult care etc the list is endless. but we dont have a charitable trust to pick up the pieces, use it wisely so that the next generation will thank you for it!

    Reply

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