With the world financial climate still precarious and likely to be in this state for some time – probably years – to come, our charitable trust is still considering not only investing a large chunk of our oil funds into a giant windfarm, but plans to borrow further hundreds of millions to fund it.
Not only are they seen to be going ahead with this project, they are still actively funding it from the funds which are held for the benefit of the people of Shetland. And there are no accounts available to show just how the £2.5 million has been spent to date over the past few years.
Councillors say that banks are queueing up to lend us the money. Of course they are! The banks might be allowing you and I just a fraction of a per cent for our savings and investments with them, but their lending rates are still prohibitively high; stating the obvious, they are in business to make money. Our money. If this is good business for them is it therefore good business for us?
This is a high-risk investment; there is no guarantee of government rules changing, costs, surtaxes, duties, levies, etc. Going by the performance of some past council investments can we trust them with our money? However, as they are also trustees, in control of the charitable trust funds, it is unlikely that they are going to say “no” to themselves when it comes to the vote on going ahead with this project.
During the Accounts Commission public hearing this week, it was emphasised time and again by councillors and officials that Shetland Islands Council has to tighten its belt, cut back on services, staff, expenditure; services funded by the trust could be severely curtailed during the construction period.
By saying and doing nothing it might give the impression that you are for this project. Just as our convener assumed at the end of the hearing; because of the low numbers of the public attending the hearing, this was a vote of confidence in himself and the council, that they were doing a good job.
Perhaps the public would like a review of the windfarm project. And be allowed to vote for or against it.
3 Anderson Road,