No hatred here (Jonathan Wills)
Drew Ratter is quoted by your reporter (The Shetland Times, page three, 28th April) as alleging that I have run a “hate-filled campaign” in my attempts to restore democratic control of the Shetland Charitable Trust.
As it happens, this week I have been clearing my desk of council and trust papers, to make space for gardening magazines and my collection of old photographs.
Among the trust papers that I am about to send to safe keeping in the muniment room of Stobister House I see one from nine years ago, dated 8th May 2008, when the independent trustee John Scott and I put forward a motion to the trust (then controlled by the council) outlining three preferred options for its future membership.
These were as follows:
1. Either 24 trustees, comprising seven SIC councillors selected by their fellows, with no
more than one from each ward; and 14 directly elected independent trustees (the chair
to be one of these, with a casting vote); plus the SIC convener ex officio; and another two independent trustees co-opted for their specialist expertise.
2. Or 16 trustees, comprising seven SIC councillors selected by their fellows, with no
more than one from each ward; eight directly elected independent trustees (the chair
to be one of these, with a casting vote); plus the SIC convener ex officio.
3. Or 15 directly elected independent trustees, with no serving SIC councillor eligible
for election as a trustee.
I have just looked carefully through these options (of which I favoured the latter, even then) and I can find no sign of hatred.
Since 2008 I have been trying, persistently but with remarkably little success, to find a compromise that would retain democratic control of more than half of Shetland’s oil money,
while satisfying the charities regulator, the auditors and the tax authorities, who between
them had pointed out the various legal and financial problems caused by elected councillors
being also trustees.
This search for a workable compromise involved speaking to many people, writing papers for
debates and consultations, and engaging in lengthy correspondence, both private and public
(often through the courtesy of your columns).
Apparently, this amounts to a “hate-filled campaign”.
Well, I will admit to intense frustration at the slow pace of the project, and the current hiatus. I do feel dismayed, even angry, at an old comrade turning his back on a basic democratic principle.
There has also sometimes been despair that people who, on the face of it, seemed to be reasonable, intelligent and fair-minded, refused even to consider carefully researched and moderately expressed arguments in favour of a democratic compromise.
There is now exasperation, bordering on contempt, at the arrogance of the self-perpetuating appointocracy ignoring the clearly expressed wishes of the people of Shetland and their elected representatives.
But hatred? No, only an abiding sorrow that a friendship of more than 40 years should be soured over this unavoidable matter of principle.
Da Flea and I have tried patient, logical argument and failed. Perhaps public contempt and ridicule will eventually persuade the trustees to do their duty and phase in the elected majority of trustees that was first mooted all those years ago.
It would go a long way towards restoring the trust’s reputation, which has been battered, not by me, but by the actions of the unelected majority and by those councillor trustees who forgot who had put them there.