The recommendation of Shetland Charitable Trust’s “governance review group” ignores the case for democratically elected trustees. Those of us who have patiently presented rational, evidence-based arguments for direct elections and a truly independent trust have been wasting our breath. The elders and betters are obdurate: they know what’s good for us.
If the trust agrees to this undemocratic and reactionary proposal on 21st September, then potential future revenues of hundreds of millions of pounds from the windfarm (and what remains of our oil money) will be controlled by a group of “trusties”, hand-picked by retiring members of Shetland Islands Council.
The governance “groupies” clearly have no trust in the wisdom or ability of the people of Shetland to elect suitable candidates. They regard democratic election of trustees as dangerous because they say “random” people might get elected.
The groupies want to rush the change through, with only a fortnight for the full public consultation that ought now to take place on this specific proposal. The hasty timetable takes advantage of the absence of some of their opponents on 21st September. This is a last-gasp attempt by a rump of councillors, most of whom won’t stand for re-election to the SIC next May, to deprive the voters of long-term control of a public asset.
The trust funds do not belong to the trustees. They belong to the people. This is not a private trust, where a bunch of selected stuffed shirts in suits might be appropriate as guardians of vested private interests. It’s a major public trust and there’s no valid argument against elected trustees.
This proposal is not a reform. It would create a far worse situation than the current unsatisfactory arrangements, where all councillors are trustees by virtue of their office. If it goes ahead, I hope candidates for the council elections in May 2011 will seek a mandate to reverse it. But by then, of course, the appointed trusties would be in a majority. The elders and betters, not the people, would be deciding how to spend our money.
As The Man said of the Trojan Horse: “O miseri, quae tant insania cives?” (“O miserable citizens, what madness is this?”)
Shetland Charitable Trust.