Editorial: The Old Rock 15.04.11

In September last year, when Shetland Charitable Trust voted to seek the opinion of senior legal counsel on whether it needed to reform to comply with the demands of the charity regulator OSCR, this column observed that it would only delay the inevitable, not through any great prescience but because it has been clear for several years now that charities face a much more restrictive regulatory regime, particularly where governance is concerned.

Sure enough, Roy Martin QC, who was appointed jointly by the trust and the SIC in November to give his view and delivered his report last week, has concluded that such is the potential for conflicts of interest between the two organisations, the influence of the council on the trust through councillor-trustees must be sharply reduced. Mr Martin leaves it up to the trust to decide on the precise number of trustees, but insists on the general principle that at no time can councillor-trustees as a voting bloc be permitted to form a majority.

There can now be little doubt that change must come. The question for trustees will be whether to reform the trust constitution to allow for the appointment or election of independents in whatever number they choose; the Old Rock’s previously-stated preference is for elections.

A footnote: given council convener and trustee Sandy Cluness’s statement that he would go to the House of Lords if necessary to maintain the status quo, it is rather piquant that Mr Martin cites the decision of the House of Lords in the case of Aberdeen Railway Company v Blaikie Brothers (1854) as the basis for the legal principle of irreconcilable conflict of interest.


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