Two councillors have bluntly condemned plans to reform Shetland Charitable Trust (SCT) by introducing eight hand-picked non councillors as “snobbery”, “fundamentally anti-democratic” and “contemptuous and insulting” to the electorate.
The latest proposal would see the eight selected by the seven SIC councillors who would remain on a new 15-member trustee body. Councillors currently make up 21 of the 23 trustees, but there has been clamour both locally and from charities regulator OSCR for the SIC’s control to be heavily diluted.
Trustees attended a private seminar on Wednesday to discuss the recommendations of a governance review group. The proposal will be publicly debated by trustees at SCT’s next meeting on 8th September, but there is no plan to further consult the public on the changes.
Back in May trustees agreed “in principle” to reform the governance arrangements following the receipt of legal advice from Roy Martin QC, one of Scotland’s top lawyers, which cost £20,000. Specifically, they accepted that “the majority of trustees should be drawn from outwith the council”.
In a joint letter to this newspaper following the meeting (see Readers’ Views), councillor-trustees Gary Robinson and Jonathan Wills hit out at the idea of appointing eight “privately vetted” trustees to decide how the trust spends community funds.
“This fundamentally anti-democratic proposal would hand control of the trust’s oil funds – and the potentially huge new windfarm revenues – to an unrepresentative group of ‘trusties’,” Mr Robinson and Dr Wills wrote.
“Those who advocate a hand-picked majority of unelected trustees fear that holding an open election for the eight non-councillor posts might produce ‘random’ results … They allege there aren’t enough well-qualified, public-spirited citizens likely to want to volunteer for the honour of being trusted guardians of the public’s wealth.”
The two councillor-trustees said they would fight any move to push through the “fudged, embarrassing and damaging” reform before next May’s council elections.
“[S]ome of us will do everything in our power to keep control of Shetland’s community funds in the hands of elected representatives, be they councillor-trustees or directly-elected trustees, because they alone can be truly independent and accountable, rather than the creatures of a discredited clique.”
A short statement issued by the trust read: “Trustees had a constructive discussion at which a number of valuable points were raised. A full set of proposals will be presented to trustees in due course.”