Undue influence? (Rosa Steppanova)

In relation to the cancelled SCT meeting of 30th April, Ann Black, chief executive of Shetland Charitable Trust, states in her press release: “I appreciate trustees’ frustration at not being able to debate or discuss this matter.”

As far as I can ascertain, there was nothing in the OSCR directive preventing them from doing so. Trustees were free to discuss or debate “this matter” (further funds for VE) to their hearts’ content, from the date and time of the meeting until 12pm on 2nd May, to be precise. This begs the question if trustees were correctly advised by SCT officials. If so, their “frustration” seems somewhat disingenuous.   

One of the reasons for the OSCR intervention is: “This particular project and any investment in it by the Trust, has been the subject of divided opinion not only between the current trustees, but also in the community served by the charity” (OSCR inquiry report).

We’ve been told countless times that the proposed windfarm is a community project. Apart from spending the community’s money, I’ve seen no evidence of any community involvement to date, quite the opposite in fact: secrecy, prevarication and spin. Openness and transparency from VE and SCT might go some way towards healing the divide in our community.

SCT says on its website: Our aim is to provide public benefit to and improve the quality of life for the people of Shetland, especially in the areas of:

• Social care and welfare;

• Arts, culture, sport and recreation;

• The environment, natural history and heritage.

It seems SCT has all but abandoned some of these noble aims, which makes me wonder whether not only trustees, but also officials, are under undue influence from VE. The project can hardly improve the quality of life for those having to live within close proximity to turbines, if it ever sees the light of day, and, with even the longest stretch of the imagination, it can hardly be said to benefit our environment.

The question of undue influence also brings into doubt the equality of trustees in regard to openness and transparency between trustees and trustees and officials. It has become clear from recent events that some trustees receive more information than others, or worse, some are informed, while others are left in the dark and have to rely on members of the public to bring them up to date on SCT decisions.

The OSCR report further states: “In this context [trustee and community division] trustees require to be particularly careful to make investment decisions with due care and diligence and with all the relevant independent advice that is appropriate – both legal and financial.”

What, if any, relevant and independent legal advice was given to the seven trustees who demanded this meeting?

What, if any, relevant and independent financial advice, apart from Quayle and Munro calculations regarding windfarm profit, which, according to SCT financial controller Jeff Goddard might be “in the right ball park”, was given to SCT trustees?

To restore even a vestige of public confidence in SCT, trustees are well advised to exercise due care and diligence in all their dealings with VE from now on, and not least by demanding truly independent financial advice before another penny is handed over.

Jeff Goddard’s financial report for the SCT meeting of 16th April included the “confidential” appendix B, which gives a scant and rather amateurish breakdown of how the £6.3 million, demanded by VE, is going to be spent. Why was this kept from the community, whose project, we’re told, this is?

This appendix, since widely leaked, tells me that VE plans to spend £150,000 on its habitat management plan, and £250,000 on PR. Skewed priorities aside, SCT trustees could save the Shetland population a quarter of a million pounds by demanding that VE at long last respond to the many questions put to them by members of this community over the years, rather than spending another fortune on propaganda and lobbying.

Rosa Steppanova
The Lea,


Add Your Comment
  • John Kryton

    • May 7th, 2012 6:56

    There was nothing to stop them discussing and debating this matter at the meeting before. Apart from being intimidated by a bunch of protesters and interrupted by one individual because they where inquorate. No wonder they didn’t all turn up with that kind of intimidation waiting for them.

  • David Spence

    • May 12th, 2012 11:44

    I think, if you care to look it up John, it is, to a fashion, called democracy. However though, the way and manner (and the proposed newly designed Charitable Trust), it will be anything but democracy entailed. I fully defend Rosa’s comments, as they, unlike VE spurious rhetoric regarding hypothetical statistics, have every right to question, scrutinize, debate any wrong doing with this whole facade of, in essence, profit and short term thinking regardless to any destruction thereafter caused.

  • John Kryton

    • May 13th, 2012 21:38

    I don’t see where you are coming from David, if its democracy to a fashion then to who’s fashion Joseph Stalin?

    To intimidate To make timid; fill with fear, to coerce or inhibit by or as if by threats.
    To intimidate, to browbeat, suggests the persistent application of highhanded, disdainful, or imperious tactics.

    Democracy, a state of society characterized by formal equality of rights and privileges.

  • Kathy Greaves

    • May 16th, 2012 9:49

    Mr Kryton I do not understand your interpretation of the events at the Town Hall on the morning of 30th April – were you actually there?

    There were over 20 trustees and officers in the council chamber along with about a dozen concerned members of the public as observers – this is a democratic right of the people, and not an unusual event; I have attended many council meetings as an observer and have never been aware of any signs of intimidation. At no time has any trustee or councillor been intimidated – although he/she could have been surprised at the number of observers on that day and the strength of feeling held by us.

    The overflow, including myself, listening and watching events on screen, in the hall above had no effect on the meeting whatsoever.

    And the meeting was not just interrupted – it was stopped. And a good thing too otherwise there would have been a serious situation with the meeting being deemed to be illegal. Another nail in the SCT coffin.

    I did not see one poster or banner either, just a gathering of concerned members of the public who wanted to see if our oil funds were to be depleted further.

    You might consider my interpretation – that it is Viking Energy who were doing the intimidating, browbeating the trustees into submission, into pouring more money into their ill-fated and doomed project.

    Kathy Greaves

  • ian tinkler

    • May 16th, 2012 13:16

    John Kryton, If the Trustees were so spineless as to take fright at a group of protesters and one noisy lady, perhaps they are not fit and proper people to make any decision concerning other people’s funds. All a bit irrelevant now however, most of that lot has run away! Poor things must have been terrified by Rosa and friends.

  • John Kryton

    • May 17th, 2012 18:59

    Ian trustees are there to make decisions for the good of the Shetland population. They are not in that position because of their ability to make decisions while being intimidated and rudely interrupted. They where also there because of their commitment to Shetlands future. Not there to fulfill their own hidden agenda as would have been the case if a certain would be councilor had been successful.

    Kathy the events at the Town Hall were well published so I had no need to be there, and when the time came to discus the Viking investment there were a lot less than 20 trustees left. Furthermore if the trust had not been so rudely interrupted who is to say that that a vote would have been taken, they where not given a chance to continue and make their views clear. They should have been given a chance to debate and discuss the Viking investment instead of being put in the position of asking for a further meeting to this aim.
    People who are in favour of the trust investing in the Viking project made their views known to the trust in a democratic and peaceful manner ie by letter or email not by intimidation.
    I have since had it pointed out to me that looking at the photos of the demonstration on the web and in the papers there is a distinct lack of attendance from young people. This must indicate the fact that the young people who will benefit most from this investment are wise enough to realise this.

  • ian tinkler

    • May 17th, 2012 19:53

    John, just who has hidden agendas? I think you will find all those who standing at the last election made their position on Viking, for or against, very clear. It was the last load of Trustees who had obvious conflicts of interests and personal agendas so biased that OSCR banned them from voting on Viking issues. Do you believe that at the trusts last meeting protesters frightened the Trustees so much that they run away without even a discussion? The fact is, all the pro Viking Trustees walked out of the meeting in very bad humour when the meeting was declared by the Chair as having no quorum. At that time they could well have had their discussion and let their views known publically. Those who walked out were experienced Councillors, not a group of wimps, although they did behave like a group of spoiled kids, fortunately most are now gone…

  • Kathy Greaves

    • May 18th, 2012 18:31

    The young people I know, who could not attend the meeting on 30th April, were either at school, college or at work, as were most people of all ages.

    So. Perhaps you will agree, Mr Kryton, that a referendum to settle this issue aimed at 16-year-olds and above would be a good idea after all?

    Why has the new council not already called for this – it could give a real indication of peoples’ feelings.

    My guess is that VE supporters are afraid that a real vote would show results balanced heavily against the project.

    Kathy Greaves

  • Stewart Mack

    • May 21st, 2012 16:44

    Its good to see that Mr Kryton considers the Trust being advised that they were inquorate and thus incapable of holding a meeting let alone making a decision to be “Rudely interupted” – Regardless of whether you consider the interuption to be rude or otherwise (in relation to which i think its difficult to form an opinion into rudeness unless you were actually there – which i, like Mr Kryton, was not!) the interuption was and remains justified – Being inquorate – (of a meeting) not having enough people to make a quorum means any decision made would have been inept. Rather than attacking those exercising their right to peaceful protest perhaps you should direct your wrath at those within the chamber incapable of counting the number of Trustee’s remaining.

    Finally on the matter of intimidation – come on! please listen to what you are saying it makes a nonsense of the whole affair. Intimidation of an elected official in the performance of their duties is, i believe a criminal offence so if they were “intimidated” then why werent the police called and protesters arrested? Feel free to report the intimidation you mention to the relevant authorities if you believe it to have taken place.

    Is this (not so) pent up frustration because the Trust were stopped from making an inept decision in favour of VE? Would Mr Kryton be so vociferous in his condemnation if the trust were stopped from voting against throwing more money at VE? Only Mr K will know……but i have the feeling he might just tell us

  • David Spence

    • May 23rd, 2012 16:30

    Between the times of my previous entry until now, I have been doing quite a bit of research into the social, environmental, ecological and technical impact of wind turbines (generators) and have concluded that for Shetland to be transferred to nothing more than a mass produced wind turbine for those selected minority on the basis of profit and short term thinking would really have to look beyond their tunnel visioned perspective and, to coin a phrase, look at the bigger picture of their actions. I would suggest anybody reading this to please google Windfall a documentary about the divisive impact of wind turbines on the small town of Meredith in New York State, USA. It is quite an eye opener and reveals aspects, politically and economically, that the general public were not told of, and to which caused great hostility within the community.


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