29th September 2016
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Pressure group formed to stop ‘theft’ of SCT control

A new pressure group, Democracy For Shetland’s Charitable Trust, has been formed to prevent what organisers describe as the “politically motivated theft of control of Shetland’s Charitable Trust”.

It is calling on “responsible citizens” to take “lawful direct action to prevent the theft from going ahead” by mustering prior to the charitable trust’s meeting at Islesburgh Community Centre on Thursday. The meeting will consider a proposal to reduce the number of councillor trustees to four.

The group claims “a healthy, vocal and determined turnout is crucial for Shetland’s future” and it calls on vice-chairman of the trust Jonathan Wills to be allowed to present his case for a majority of elected trustees.

It is also calling for full public consultation before reforms to the trust are implemented.

Interim convener of the group, Peter Hamilton, said: “It is essential that responsible citizens gather and be prepared to disrupt the meeting if it appears the small unrepresentative and politically-motivated cabal who want to steal control of the trust are intent on doing so.

“The issue at stake here is the control of a rich organisation which, in the people’s hands, could secure a better future for everybody in Shetland, and particularly those at the margins, living in poverty and without a voice, who have been neglected by this politically manipulated underperforming charity for so long.

“What we need is nice and simple a directly elected trust, with no appointees. The SIC need to give the same legal advice as other councils gave years back, that councillors should step back off trusts.”

He described any attempt to prevent direct elections to the trust as “daylight robbery”.

Mr Hamilton also argued that it was essential that Dr Wills be given the opportunity to put forward his case adding, “we want to hear what he has to say”.

“Thereafter the meeting should talk about one matter, and one matter only – how they will improve their consultation process,” said Mr Hamilton. “No decision on the future organisation of Shetland’s Charitable Trust can be allowed on Thursday. It is time to unite and stop the theft.”

 

There must be no decision on the future of Shetland’s charitable trust until there is a full and open consultation. PETER HAMILTON

Mr Hamilton added that if attempts to stop Dr Wills from speaking were successfully made and a decision was made without public consultation, “Shetlanders will lose their only chance to get control of what should be Shetland’s charitable trust.”

He added: “There must be no decision on the future of Shetland’s charitable trust until there is a full and open consultation. We want what Shetland’s community councillors want, it is what Shetland’s political parties want and this is what the leadership of the SIC also want – no decision without public involvement.”

The SCT meanwhile issued a press release emphasising that no decision had yet been taken on the proposals and that trustees were “free” to accept or reject them.

The trust has previously said that Dr Wills would not be allowed to table his amendment. Instead, trustees will have the option of asking officers to reconsider the proposals and bring alternative recommendations to a future trustee meeting.

Changes to the make-up of the trust must be approved by the charities regulator OSCR and as part of this process members of the public will be invited to make representations to OSCR.

SCT audit committee chairman Keith Massey said: “It’s time to counter the misunderstanding that trustees are somehow being railroaded into pushing through a particular set of recommendations.

“The trust’s structure was substantially reformed in 2012. It was agreed at that time that an independent assessment of how these governance arrangements were working in practice would be carried out within three years.

“The recommendations that will come before us at our meeting are the culmination of an extensive period of interviews, discussion and reporting that began in August last year.”

This included the appointment of the Institute of Directors (Scotland) to undertake the review following a tendering exercise. Trustees, officers and representatives of stakeholder organisations have been “closely involved” in the development of the proposals, Mr Massey said.

He added: “The majority of trustees have been engaged and constructive in this process but if they still feel their views are not represented within the report, they reserve the right to argue their own case at the trust meeting.”

Among the recommendations to be discussed on Thursday will be:

• A reduction in the number of councillor-trustees from seven to four of a total of 15;
• Continuing the process whereby an expert selection panel chooses all appointed trustees.

If trustees support the recommendations, a formal consultation will be held with Shetland Islands Council on the number of councillor trustees and the terms of the review.

Dr Wills’ amendment proposes eight trustees to be publicly elected and seven appointed trustees, selected by existing methods. He has also called for a full public consultation prior to any constitutional changes being made.

AboutPeter Johnson

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as an employed and freelance reporter and editor for a variety of print and broadcast media outlets and as as a freelance photographer and film maker/cameraman. In addition to journalism, I have experience in construction, oil analysis, aquaculture, fisheries, the health service and oral history.

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20 comments

  1. Christopher Johnston

    No good can ever come from a public organization controlled by a self-perpetuating body of trustees not directly answerable to the public.

    Reply
  2. Jonathan wills

    I appreciate Mr Hamilton’s concern but I utterly deplore any attempt to disrupt a trust meeting and will not be associated with it. I am sure I will be able to present my views in a calm and orderly fashion at the meeting.

    Reply
  3. iantinkler

    I note with much suspicion Dr. Wills’ recent lamentation about threatened changes to the Shetland Charitable Trust. I cannot help but feel that, Dr. Wills himself and the past behaviour of previous Councillor Trustees, have forced OSCR and the powers that be to act. It may just be a little late for Dr Wills’ mock outrage. He has demonstrated a marked lack of concern for the democratic views of Shetlanders in the recent past. With particular reference to Viking Energy, Dr. Wills has failed to even try and research the wishes of Shetlanders. I can only speculate why he squeals so now! I enclose a segment of a letter below which highlight my concerns and suspicions. (To, The Commissioner for Standards in Public life)

    “In November of 2011 the Charities Regulator (OSCR) took a hand in the Trust, (letter enclosed,) and against fierce opposition from Councillor Trustee (Dr. Johnathon Wills), an advocate of Viking Energy, OSCR forced the total reformation of the Trust.
    Subsequently, The Trust, with minimal public consultation, has forced through the development of Viking Energy, committing some £7.5 millions of Trust funds. What is particularly galling about this is that there was in excess of £250,000 pounds committed to a public relations company, to promote Viking Energy, but absolutely no attempt to gauge the views of the people of Shetland, who the Trustees were supposed to be representing, was ever undertaken. Further to this, the Trustees, have positioned directors onto the boards of several Companies, wholly owned by the Trust. These being, Shetland Leasing and Property Developments Limited (SLAP), Shetland Heat Energy and Power Limited (SHEAP) and SCT Renewables Ltd (Viking Energy).
    As many of these directors, being former Trustees, Councillors or both. A suspicion of conflict of interests is apparent and was in fact all but admitted by Trustee Johnathon Wills at a recent public debate.
    A clear conflict of interest can be highlighted by the Trustee appointments. “

    Reply
  4. Peter Hamilton

    I too appreciate Jonathan’s position, all too well.

    Now a partial climb down from SCT has been secured he will be able to represent his views, and good luck to him.

    But who is going to speak for the many folk who are fed up of cronyism and want a directly elected trust?

    Allowing appointees to remain, as Jonathan apparently wishes, only entrenches cronyism. The power elite on SCT will encourage their pals to put themselves forwards, and coach them on how to present themselves whilst giving a nod and a wink to let the others on the selection panel know that this is the right sort they are looking for etc.

    Massey now suggests a range of possibilities might yet be consulted on locally, but will it be the full range?

    Yes, lets have an orderly meeting that gives the people of Shetland back the consultation SCT threatened to steal, but with the prospect that they be trusted with appointing trustees directly through the ballot as our more progressive cousins in the Western Isles have been able to do for many a year on the Stornoway Trust.

    Will Wills also speak out to secure a voice for those he disagrees with, and press for separate elections for SCT with no appointees to be included in a local consultation, or has he entirely forgotten his liberal roots?

    Peter Hamilton

    Reply
  5. John Tulloch

    Thank you, Peter Hamilton for setting up this group which I hope will be massively supported.

    You are 100 percent right, the charitable trust must not be secreted away into the toy box of a self-perpetuating cabal of local power brokers.

    The ‘Undemocrats’ proposal is a one way ticket. Once control of the trust has been lost in this way, it will never be regained.

    Once established, they will be awarding themselves salaries.

    They must not be allowed to get away with it.

    A large turnout of protesters to Thursday’s crucial trust meeting is essential

    Reply
  6. Robert Wishart

    Keith Massey is wrong to claim that the trust’s structure was “substantially reformed” in 2012. Reform is not a synonym for change; it means change for the better.

    Reply
  7. Gordon Harmer

    Whilst listening to Radio Shetland the other night where the charitable trust was a topic of the news and words like political coup were used, this got me wondering. My curiosity got the better of me and I found to my amazement that there are an unnatural amount of trustees who are members of the SNP. Not really being up on the running or workings of a charitable trusts, I thought as most of the noise being made about changes to the trusts membership was by someone who is SNP orientated that there could in fact be a connection. Not only that, it has been muted that the present Scottish government would like us to spend our trust fund on thing like Shetland’s NHS and public services, I presume to make more tax payers cash available for the favored central belt. There would be no better way to do this than to infiltrate the trust with SNP trustees. Maybe someone with a better knowledge of how the trust works could tell me if this would be possible and why if this is what is feared why does someone not say it outright.

    Reply
    • Robin Stevenson

      So, basically what you’re implying , that it’s ALL one big giant conspiracy for the SNP to ‘infiltrate’ the charitable trust and fiendishly drain it dry of everyone’s lovely lolly?

      ‘By jove’ I think you may have a point old chap? “Quick Cruthers! Grab them before they can escape back to their underground hideout”.

      Seriously Gordon, that’s gotta be up there with the ridiculous WW2 comment.

      ‘Infamy, infamy, they’ve ALL got it in-fa-my’. lol @)

      Reply
      • iantinkler

        Good to see aor barber of wherever can not resist his snide sniping. Us turncoats better watch out, the nowhere man (Robin of the sour grapes) is out to get us!!

      • Robin Stevenson

        Ian,

        I see you’ve become quite attached to the term ‘sour grapes?’ However, I’m afraid I’m simply at a loss as to what you’re talking about? ‘Sour grapes’ over what exactly? …It certainly can’t be anything to do with the SNP’s spectacular and historic result of being given a third term in office?…. It couldn’t be anything to do with their 156,000 increase in votes cast in Scotland?… It can’t be that independence is off the table, now that the Greens have already offered their support?

        So, could you please offer any explanation, I’m intrigued?

      • iantinkler

        Now, Robin Stevenson, it is the Nationalists spectacular failure to gain credibility in Shetland and Orkney I am referring to here.. If Scotland wishes to become a third world socialist state, so be it. I would simply say good riddance, the people have spoken now go, however, even the most stupid can see Shetland and Orkney do not want to follow that route. Whatever freedoms of self-determination that Scotland wants and the people are entitled to, the people of Shetland and Orkney are entitled to also. However narrow your view and prejudiced your opinion, the right of self-determination is enshrined in the UN charter. Scotland chose 55% for Union, Shetland and Orkney have spoken at 65% plus, now get over it, sour grapes and all, your best and Nappy’s et all, was simple cut no ice here and just was not good enough.

    • David Spence

      You make some very good points, Gordon.

      I would like, as do many other people, a public inquiry into the SCT involvement with the Viking Energy Company, where this company has received over £11 million pounds of Shetland’s money. This money, in affect, to pay wages to the staff of the Viking Energy Company. This being without, I suspect, any investigation, scrutiny or monitoring.

      If so much of Shetland’s money is being used to ‘ prop-up a private company ‘ in a very dubious and highly expensive project (which will more than likely not come into fruition) without any accountability by the Viking Energy Company, but moreso the SCT.

      If such a project fails, will the Viking Energy Company pay back the money they have received from the SCT????????

      Reply
    • Gordon Harmer

      Robin, or sniping from the sideline Robin, I asked a question because it does look suspiciously like a coup by the SNP to gain control of Shetland’s money. Last weekend I went for a sail around Foula on the Swan, one of Shetlands greatest assets and something unique to Shetland. I was told by the volunteer crew that the SCT were going to remove the funding for this, something no sane Shetland minded trustee would condone. Not being up on issues regarding the workings of the SCT I looked into its structure and was surprised at the involvement of many members of the SNP. I may have put 2×2 together and maybe got 5 but my suspicions have been raised. So question asked and certainly not answered by you, and because this is really an issue for those who this affects, if there were a polite way of saying butt out I would use it but there is not so I won’t say it. So once again is it possible that the SCT is under threat by a political coup and what can we mere mortals do to stop this and help projects like the Swan receive it’s funding.

      Reply
    • Ray Purchase

      Wow Gordon, no wonder Wir Shetland felt the need to publicly distance itself from you if you’re coming out with crackpot, libellous ravings like that. SNP sleeper cells infiltrating the SCT bent on destroying life as we know it. Whatever next, the KGB in the LHD or Isis penetrating the Up Helly Aa committee?

      Reply
      • Ian Tinkler

        One cannot help but notice some of Shetlands most Nationalist councilors, now sitting as Trustees, at election time stood as independents. Not surprising really, poor Dannus admitted being SNP and was thumped in the council elections!! If the Trust has been hijacked, it is by Viking Energy proponents, it goes without saying the SNP energy policy is very much for Viking Energy and cares no one halfpence for the environment of Shetland or for that mater the landscape of Scotland. The Salmond, Sturgeon’s “green dream”, Scotland-the power house of Europe, all the scientific knowledge of a pair of hagis!!.

      • Gordon Harmer

        Sleeper cells, now there is a crackpot raving I had not thought of I had better add it to my conspiracy theory, thank you Ray.
        Maybe if you read things then remembered to put your brain into gear before you answer what is in fact a question I may reply to your post with a bit more politeness.
        There are a conspicuous amount of SNP followers on the Charitable Trust and one of them is asking for reform and I am quite entitled to ask a question. Ray, maybe you did not notice but the SNP only got 25.8% of the total vote available so no majority and no landslide and no removal of free speech.

    • Ray Purchase

      Looked back through your post Gordon – not one question mark in it. What you posted is a thinly veiled inference that the trustees are deliberately sabotaging the trust on behalf of the SNP – that’s why I added the word ‘libellous’ to the phrase ‘crackpot ravings’ that you chose to quote. Now we may all disagree with the decisions made by the trust but to question the integrity of the trustees in the way you did is pretty contemptible. Nobody writing with a clear head would think that these people would deliberately damage the community that they and their families live in and that they have volunteered to serve, in many cases in more than one capacity.

      As for Tavish’s win – well done to him. He is a good man and a good local MSP – another example of somebody doing their best to serve the community. Although he won this seat the SNP won the election though – their third in a row. And during those parliaments there has been no curtailment of liberty and free speech; a fact that is clearly demonstrated when reading the malignant drivel posted here on a daily basis by you and your cronies.

      Reply
      • Ian Tinkler

        “the malignant drivel posted here on a daily basis by you and your cronies.” O dear me, Ray Purchase , do I detect sour grapes? Whatever happens in Scotland, Shetlanders have demonstrated admirable just what the think about Nationalism.
        As regards malignant drivel, just give a few references of the same, you have accustomed of making things up, yet are completely unable to reference a single incorrect fact I have stated. Now, I challenge you again to do just that.

      • Gordon Harmer

        Question one Ray, “Maybe someone with a better knowledge of how the trust works could tell me if this would be possible and why if this is what is feared why does someone not say it outright”.
        Question two Ray, “So once again is it possible that the SCT is under threat by a political coup and what can we mere mortals do to stop this and help projects like the Swan receive it’s funding”.
        No question marks but a four year old would recognise a question when reading this. Could you please tell me when it became libelous (with one l) to ask a question or even say that it looks to me that the SNP could be trying to gain a majority on the SCT for their own agenda.
        As for your malignant drivel comment; all I can say is you are an expert in this field so you would know.

  8. Peter Hamilton

    Tomorrow Shetland Charitable Trust will hide behind the report we paid for from the Institute of Directors to argue against directly electing trustees. There are other bodies, think tanks and countless professors who could tell them the benefits of abandoning cronyism and conflicts of interest and embracing public participation. I guess it is a care of they get what we pay for.

    Reply

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