Regulator rules charitable trust acted correctly over HNP site sale
The charities regulator Oscr has ruled that trustees of Shetland Charitable Trust and directors of its subsidiary Slap acted properly in the sale of the site of engineering firm HNP.
It followed a complaint submitted in February by the director of HNP Engineers (Lerwick) Ian Walterson who has been in a dispute with Slap about his firm’s enforced move from the site at Commercial Road in Lerwick.
In a letter to SCT chief executive Ann Black, Oscr’s head of enforcement Laura Anderson said: “It appears that the charity trustees and directors of Slap have acted in line with their legal duties throughout [the sale] process.
“We note that the charity trustees were kept abreast of developments on a regular basis by Slap.”
Mr Walterson said that Oscr’s finding was “disappointing but to be expected”. He said that the charity regulator was a “toothless organisation”.
Mr Walterson added: “The fact that it has taken them eight months to come up with that response is pretty poor.”
HNP has completed the purchase of a workshop at the Black Hill Industrial Estate and has established temporary offices in a portable cabin at the back of that building. It is in the process of installing heavy duty wiring in the workshop and even that was a “major task”, said Mr Walterson, who stuck by his prediction that the move would only be completed by the end of the year. As well as fitting out the workshop with heavy equipment, offices inside the building have to be prepared.
Mr Walterson was also critical of Slap for not having paid a penny towards HNP’s expensive removal, despite “recent statements” that Slap had tried to help HNP in any way possible to complete the move. “That’s not the case,” he said.
Oscr also recommended that the trust reviews the wording of one of its “objects” regarding the purpose of making loans or grants “towards promoting directly or indirectly the development of any industry or industries among the community”, a task that the trust has already started.
Ms Anderson said: “The reality is that there are only very limited circumstances under which ‘promoting directly or indirectly the development of any industry or industries among the community’ could ever be charitable.”
SCT Chairman Bobby Hunter welcomed the letter and said in a statement sent to the press: “I am pleased that Oscr has ruled that we handled the situation in accordance with charity law.
“We strive every day to comply with not only charity law but the exacting standards applied by HMRC and our own auditors.”
He added: “On the issue of clarifying the wording of the objects, we are aware of the need to review these and will amend them as part of the reorganisation scheme.”
• The sale of the Commercial Road site clears the way for the proposed development of student accommodation.