1st October 2016
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Future of the Shetland Charitable Trust (Jonathan Wills)

As your readers may know, the Shetland Charitable Trust is at present reviewing its governance arrangements, four years after the re-organisation which reduced the number of trustees to 15 and left councillor trustees in a minority of seven to the eight appointed trustees.

There is a proposal to reduce the number of councillors further, to just four. This will not resolve the perceived “conflict of interest” problem, nor the problem of the trust’s accounts still being “grouped” by Audit Scotland, as if the trust were a subsidiary of the council.

The solution appears to be for there no longer to be any councillors at all on the trust, given the difficulties so much publicised in recent years. However, given the intrinsic public character of the trust fund, due to its origins as public money and its purpose being the benefit of “the inhabitants of the Shetland Islands”, it seems reasonable to propose that the public should still have a say in who controls the trust.

Jonathan Wills has written a discussion paper on the future of Shetland Charitable Trust. He is keen to hear the views of Shetland Times readers about the possibilities for reform of the trust’s make-up. Follow the link to read the paper: 160424_JW_Media.docx

Therefore there is a suggestion that eight of the trustees be nominated by public election and the remaining seven appointed after interview; or some other arrangement whereby the public regains majority representation on the trust.

I would be interested to know the views of your readers on this important issue of public policy. Do they support the principle of an elected majority of trustees, or would they be content to see the public’s representatives reduced to four out of 15?

Councillor Jonathan Wills

Lerwick South ward

Town Hall,

Lerwick.

10 comments

  1. John Tulloch

    As Jonathan has taken considerable time and trouble to write the informative paper (linked from the above article), perhaps a representative of those he refers to as the “Undemocrats” will accord the public similar respect by regaling us with their rationale for moving to eleven appointed trustees and four councillors?

    Reply
  2. John Tulloch

    We are indebted to Jonathan for raising this issue, albeit, in mid-election. However, it gives rise to further questions, including:

    1. Why have any appointed trustees?
    2. If councillors as beneficiaries should be excluded, should not, also, paid appointees of the Scottish government to NHS Shetland Health Board, another potential beneficiary, be excluded?
    3. Why should trustees not receive some token remuneration for their efforts, as do members of NHS Shetland Health Board? This should help to expand the availability of candidates. Well-off individuals who wish to remain as purely volunteers can return their money to the trust.
    4. In the absence of all trustees being elected, should not the chair and vice chair be directly elected?

    Reply
    • Robin Stevenson

      What you’re referring to here is a form of democracy John, much the same as informing WS members prior to them joining that you fully expect them to just go along with whichever political party you choose for them?….Oh wait!

      Reply
      • John Tulloch

        Robin Stevenson,

        Shetland voters will note your childish attempt to introduce petty party politics into this serious issue and will treat the SNP and ‘cuts denier’ Danus Skene with richly deserved contempt on polling day.

      • Robert Duncan

        Could we have just one page without this pointless bickering?

        I support Jonathan Wills’ proposal.

    • Ray Purchase

      John Tulloch, I think you greatly overestimate the influence that the comments here have on the voters of Shetland.

      Reply
  3. Kathy Greaves

    I think that four councillors out of fifteen trustees is about right, they should be able to give valuable input to trustees meetings. Public perception of ‘conflict of interest’ will not go away until or unless this is sorted.

    Reply
  4. Haydn Gear

    Robert Duncan—-What do you mean by bickering in these columns? Such pathetic behaviour never appears. Intelligent ,,reasonable , well considered and respectful correspondence is always par for the course. Ask Ian Tinkler . He will confirm this in his inimitable fashion !!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  5. Johan Adamson

    I think the majority should be elected and not selected although I am not sure why we need appointed ones. I am not sure that the selection process has worked in the past and could not be challenged. And of late we have had less control over what happens at SCT, so we need to vote to give us back that control. There is no reason why there should not be a ballot paper for this at the same time as we elect councillors, but hopefully with a different set of names: Can you stand for both?

    Reply
  6. Andy Ross

    Dear sir,
    I am not in the habit of writing letters to the paper, but this week I have found myself writing two. Both have been about subjects which I think are very important, mental health being the first, and democracy being the second.

    This letter is in support of Jonathan Will’s proposal for the “re-democratisation” of the Charitable Trust. As an incomer to Shetland, I have been lucky enough to live in a place where the Charitable Trust’s money has had a huge impact and benefit, working alongside Council to support us all. I will not pretend to know much about how it all works, but what I do know, having come from a country, Zimbabwe, where democracy is not as robust as it is in the UK, and having just been in a situation where the same applies, I am proud to know that we have a system that works, and I would not like to see it compromised.

    I was not in Shetland when oil came to the islands. I cannot claim to have any rights over it except that I believe I am part of a society and community which should decide what happens with that money. The money will be here long after I am gone and it is up to us to ensure that it is well looked-after and stewarded. I am not, in any way, criticising or implying that the money has not been well-used in the main up until now. It is what has benefitted me and others after all, and allows us to continue to live here. What I am saying is that, for the interests of clarity and to avoid conflicts, Mr Will’s proposition seems sensible, and I would like to add my name to the supporters.

    Reply

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