Why I’ve resigned from trust (Billy Fox)
Dear Dr Black,
Please accept this letter of resignation and also my apologies for my short tenure as a trustee of the Shetland Charitable Trust.
Upon taking office I began to form the opinion that the role of councillor and trustee are incompatible. I believe this relates to many of the issues dealt with in both positions but has been magnified since the transfer of Viking Energy Ltd from the council to the trust. Since then it is my opinion the Viking Energy tail has been wagging the charitable trust dog and the end result will be to the detriment of its beneficiaries.
For a trust which holds substantial funds for the benefit of the entire Shetland public I do not believe that due democratic process has been followed in the pursuance of the Viking Energy investment.
My concerns heightened on 12th June (Viking Energy induction day), when trustees faced a three line whip of SCT legal and financial “experts”. I believe the legal advice evolved to fit the embarrassing circumstances which Viking Energy had found itself in and, in my opinion, none of it was unequivocal. At the end of the day legal advice is just that, the judgement and responsibility lies with the trustee – there is no comeback on the lawyers!
In my opinion, the project valuation was speculative with little meaningful detail until some searching questions were asked. Only then was discussion held on the considerable risk relating to the civil engineering challenges of building the windfarm, not to mention the narrowing window of opportunity with regard to subsidy etc. Also, in my opinion, it should be borne in mind development brokers do have a vested interest in talking up projects!
Taking all this into consideration and the pre-meeting public actions of our chair and vice-chair I could come to no other conclusion than to declare an interest on 28th June. My reasoning for that was expressed in a public statement which I have attached for your information.
Aside from my conflict of interest and judging purely as a trustee, I question if the Viking Energy investment passes the “charity test”? Relating to this and the question surrounding “public disbenefit”, I do not believe it does.
Whether or not the VE development becomes reality, I believe there will likely come a day when questions will be asked on the actions that have taken place over the last few years. I for one do not want to be implicated in something which I believe will go down in Shetland’s history as one of its sorriest and most damaging periods.
Shetland Charitable Trust beneficiary