It is not like the SIC’s convener to put his weight behind an expensive project, is it? Spending an unspecified sum of money for a legal opinion on whether Shetland Charitable Trust should alter its governance structures in line with the request made by charities regulator OSCR may not be up to Bressay bridge standards, but it shows the same, now characteristic lack of judgement. As a delaying tactic, it will be effective enough, but surely it is only putting off the inevitable?
Mr Cluness seems to think that because the trust was formed in unique circumstances, which it indubitably was, it is a unique organisation. Not in the eyes of the law it isn’t, which is why OSCR has been pursuing reform. The reflex response, not only of Mr Cluness but of several other councillor-trustees on Wednesday, was the same as that on display for much of the last year: contempt for civic organisations outwith the isles. While healthy as a base instinct, this kind of lock-jaw nonsense needs to be moderated by a degree of rational judgement from time to time.
As this column has said before, the legitimacy of the trust is at stake here. The council must cede control, preferably through full elections to the trust, but if reform must happen in stages then so be it. Why change should, as Mr Cluness estimates, lead to the trust failing to function effectively is something of a puzzle. There are countless examples of partnerships in national and local government that work effectively without sharing personnel.