29th September 2016
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Campaigner Hamilton says people feel alienated by charitable trust

A campaign group seeking wholesale reform of the charitable trust says that people now view the trust with suspicion and a sense of alienation, according to the results of a survey undertaken by the group.

sctmarketcross

Peter Hamilton collects views about Shetland Charitable Trust at the Market Cross.

Democracy for Shetland’s Charitable Trust (D4SCT) is seeking to overthrow the trust’s own plans to reduce the number of councillor trustees on its board to four, and instead is campaigning for a directly elected trust.

D4SCT interim convener Peter Hamilton also called for the resignation of SCT chairman Bobby Hunter who was responsible for “this interlocked pattern of pitiful engagement and insulting high-handedness” and said the questionnaire had proven there was wide spread public mistrust of the organisation which has been blamed for a host of other shortcomings.

Mr Hamilton, who has a masters qualification in social science research, said that the small sample of 28 respondents who were questioned at the Market Cross in Lerwick, plus four who had been randomly selected and questioned over the phone, showed a “pattern of reaction to the trust” that went “beyond disquiet and towards suspicion and alienation”.

He adds in a summary to the results of the questionnaire: “It seems self-evident that Shetland Charitable Trust in its current form, or in the new form it seeks, is no longer fit for purpose.”

Just over half of the people questioned (52 per cent) want the trust board to be directly democratically elected, while just under a quarter (24 per cent) supported a plan championed by trust vice-chairman Jonathan Wills for a mix of appointed and elected trustees. There was little support (nine per cent) for the plan the trust is rolling with for a mix of councillor and appointed trustees.

Other findings of Mr Hamilton’s survey were that the public was apathetic about the trust, felt insulted by its ignorance of public opinion, or that their views would not be listened to even if an approach was made to the trust.

 

There was also a sizeable objection to the trust spending money to back the Viking Energy Wind Farm.

There was strong support (21/32 valid responses) for the trust redistributing money to the poor and disadvantaged, charities and the voluntary sector, while 30 of 33 supported conditions being put on the money granted to the Shetland trusts. Only three of 33 were satisfied with the current balance of spending.

“The strength of responses vindicates D4SCT’s position that there is an imbalance of SCT expenditure towards those with a disposable income,” says Mr Hamilton’s report.

Mr Hamilton said that it was an invaluable questionnaire that resolved many of the issues of perception around the trust that were lacking clarity. It indicated the public felt excluded from the trust, which was developing into a club picked by its own power-brokers, who had no grasp of reality and little understanding of the poorer elements of society it was there to help.

Mr Hamilton outlines the methodological robustness of his survey in a “statement of research validity” and acknowledges where the results might be skewed.

The research methodology employed is known as “action research”, which is used, according to Mr Hamilton, to give voice to the disempowered. It does not intend to measure the status quo, but aims instead to change it.

Commenting on the survey, the chairman of SCT’s Audit and Governance Advisory Committee Keith Massey said: “Trustees have opted to continue with a slightly changed mix of councillor-trustees and appointed trustees, and we are now beginning to assess how this will work in practice.

“Trustees are all members of the community in Shetland and are happy to listen to and consider a range of views.”

 

• Charitable trust reform pressure group Democracy for Shetland’s Charitable Trust has launched a petition and website to “make sure” control of the trust is returned to the people of Shetland.

The petition says: “We, the inhabitants of Shetland, hereby demand full democratic control over Shetland Charitable Trust through direct elections.

It can be viewed online at
http://www.petitions24.com/democracy_for_shetlands_charitable_trust

or accessed via the campaign website at http://www.democracy4sct.com/

D4SCT interim convenor Peter Hamilton said: “Our current Trustees seem hellbent on keeping control in the hands of the few for as long as they can. Otherwise why would they be putting forwards such an anti democratic plan without properly consulting the people of Shetland? Did they hope we wouldn’t notice? They have shown themselves to be untrustworthy and have plainly had their day. The experiment with appointees has failed. Those in control of the trust have run rings round them.

“Direct elections for all trustees immediately, no cronies, no appointees and no councillors with conflicts of interest, is the only way to make sure our money is properly invested and properly spent.

“We therefore encourage everyone who cares about Shetland to get behind this campaign fast, and sign our petition online and find out more and contact is through our website. it only takes two minutes, and encourage your friends, neighbours and workmates to do likewise. This is our one chance to stop Shetland’s Charitable Trust from being taken out of our hands forever. There is no time to waste.”

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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6 comments

  1. Michael Garriock

    “Trustees are all members of the community in Shetland and are happy to listen to and consider a range of views.”

    Then totally disregard any and all of them that don’t agree with their own preconceived opinion(s) and agenda(s), just because they can.

    Trustees having accountability to the owners of the fund, namely Shetland.

    Trustees having accountability to the beneficiaries of the fund, namely Shetland.

    Trustees acceptably fulfilling the moral responsibilities of their positions.

    Trustees acceptably fulfilling the ethical responsibilities of their positions.

    Where are any of those? Blowing in the wind is where they are, same as it always was.

    Patronisingly stating the SCT is only accountable to the OSCR and its Trust Deed is insulting. We know it must comply with current stautes, but that is its legal obligations only. Without robust accountability to owners and beneficiaries, and clear and proven ethical and moral conduct demonstrated to the same, the SCT is an affront to its name and to the place and people whose name it bears.

    Reply
  2. John Tulloch

    Great stuff, Peter Hamilton, well done. Please keep it up!

    Reply
  3. Peter hamilton

    Mr. Massey says trustees are happy to listen to and consider a range of views. When I tried to point out at their public meeting on the 12th of May that they were proceeding on the basis of selective and inadequate information the trustees shouted me down. Apparently another member of the public attended a meeting recently which lasted six minutes before she was kicked out so that trustees could meet in private. As she left she said “Its pathetic”. I hope they heard. Why have public meetings if the public can’t speak Mr. Massey?

    Reply
    • John N Hunter

      Trustee meetings are just that, for the trustees. Not for members of the public to stand up and harangue those present.

      Reply
      • Christopher Johnston

        Mr. Hunter, your arrogant comment precisely illustrates SCT’s governance and leadership problem. The governed should quietly and gratefully observe their betters determine what is best, and never dare question or opine what they think best.

  4. Peter hamilton

    Thanks John. Those with an interest in preventing the theft of control of Shetland’s Charitable Trust may want to visit the Democracy for Shetland’s Charitable Trust at http://www.democracy4sct.com . The full report on last week’s listening exercise can be found there as can a straight ink to a petition calling for direct elections for all trustees and further information about what you can do to help.

    Reply

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