21st November 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

OSCR looks a proper Charlie (Billy Fox)

With regard to Shetland Charitable Trust reform, OSCR says it is not up to it to decide whether election or selection of the majority of trustees was the most superior method.

That being the case it should be a relatively simple matter to review this and hold a public vote on how we want our board of trustees constituted.

OSCR also re-iterated that governance must change as the current constitution created “irreconcilable conflicts of interest and resulted in public mistrust of decisions taken on behalf of the trust”. I completely agree … so where was OSCR on 28th June?

In reply to my query for its opinion on the 28th June meeting I received the following:

“Dear Mr Fox

Shetland Charitable Trust – SC027025

Thank you for your emails of 22 and 25 June in relation to the forthcoming meeting of the Trust.  

We have considered the legal advice provided by Turcan Connell on 20 June and 25 June and believe that the issues regarding conflict of interest have been adequately covered in this advice.   

While we note your concern about having a personal conflict of interest as a result of your previous relationship with Sustainable Shetland, we consider there to be a distinction between a conflict of interest and a difference of opinion on a particular issue, with the latter not impinging on an individual’s ability to participate in a decision regarding that issue – this appears to be confirmed by the advice of 25 June.   

You also question whether the investment in Viking passes the charity test. It is our understanding that SCT’s involvement with Viking Energy is as an investment destination for its funds, rather than as an activity which is directly meant to further its charitable purposes. As such, any decisions on whether to invest further will depend on whether the charity trustees feel such investment is in the interests of the charity, rather than whether it relates to SCT’s charitable purposes. The issues of possible disbenefit which you raise may of course be relevant factors in coming to a view on whether the investment is in the interests of the charity, on the grounds that any disbenefit which you might be able to identify might impact adversely on SCT’s beneficiaries and its reputation.”

I would contend that, if OSCR could not find any conflict of interest with the 28th June meeting then I doubt if it can have any issue with the governance of the trust, in essence I believe OSCR has looked a proper Charlie with its contrary views on the trust’s governance.

Trust governance must change for the Shetland public’s sake and it must be democratic but I do not think the trust need worry about OSCR, it appears to be toothlessly inconsistent.  

Billy Fox
Shetland Charitable Trust beneficiary
Brennek,
Quarff.

38 comments

  1. Johan Adamson

    It would seem to me that the last group of SIC councillors did not trust any one else in Shetland to run the Charitable Trust, so they couldnt be elected, they would have to be chosen. But if they dont trust us, then why should we trust them?

    OSCR should not be having to intervene in this, we should be able to trust the independent charity trustees running the CT to be looking after Shetlanders interests, and not just those of the business community.

    Reply
  2. Sandy McMillan

    I believe, infact there is only way forward that would be fair and Democratic, with the eight individuals becoming members or Trustees of the Shetland Charitable Trust, it to put it to the public in the way of a open election, without any interference, from the Council Trustees, and office bearers of the Shetland Charitable Trust.
    Sandy McMillan

    Reply
  3. Bert Morrison

    Twenty two people were democratically elected by US the electorate in Shetland to serve as Shetland Islands Councillors. With this appointment they also act as trustees of the Shetland Charitable Trust. The Trust is therefore steered by trustees who have been democratically elected by US the electorate. WE knew fine well that is what we were voting for (if we voted).

    What better way is there to ensure the trust is controlled by the people of Shetland?

    Where is the conflict of interest?

    Maybe the SCT should be disbanded and renamed Sustainable Shetland to keep the peace.

    Reply
  4. Johan Adamson

    Bert, the problem is that the Councillors do have a conflict of interest in this dual role and they are also gagged and have to tow the line so that public meetings are not too messy. The problem with that is that the Trustees cant be useful and add anything, they have to be yes men and women, too scared to put their head above the parapet.

    Reply
  5. Michael Garriock

    Bert,

    Twenty two people were (allegedly) democratically elected to be Shetland Islands Councillors, certainly. However nobody was elected, democratically or otherwise to serve as Shetland Charitable Trust Trustees. Councillors are self-appointed to their trusteeships by default of the legacy of their predecessors.

    Ask yourself, how many candidates for Councillor set forth in their pre-election manifestos their policies with regard to the future direction of the Shetland Charitable Trust? Then consider the secondary issue, even if a candidate’s stance concerning their trusteeship of the Shetland Charitable Trust is made known. Why should we, the electorate, be forced to compromise when voting, and have to choose the candidate who we ajudge will fulfill both roles of Trustee and Councillor “adequately”, if only mediorcely, when we could well have the opportunity of choosing one individual who we believe would make an excellent Trustee, and another completely different individual who we believe would make an excellent Councillor. The role of Trustee and the role of Councillor have now, in some people’s opinion grown and attained individual “requirements”, that cannot be fulfilled adequately by the inherent talents that any one individual can reasonably be expected to possess.

    Why should the electorate be put in a position whereby they feel “forced” to vote for an individual whom they adjudge would be an absolutely hopeless Councillor, but they are the only candidate who holds views concerning the Shetland Charitable Trust that they can support, or vice versa, someone they adjudge would make an excellent Councillor, but holds views concerning the Shetland Charitable Trust that oppose their own.

    Where’s the fairness is that system? Its being stuck between a rock and a hard place, being forced to choose the lesser evil. Its unnecessary when an alternative exists that would provide a far greater democratically accountable solution.

    While it is theoretically possible that one individual could possess inherent talents to adequately discharge the roles of Councillor and Trustee, and the majority of past Councillor/Trustees presumably believe they did so. The bottom line is that regardless whether they did or didn’t discharge their duties in their dual role adequately, they failed to convince a section of the population that they had indeed done so. Things not only need to be done, they need to be seen to be done….

    Reply
  6. S V Jolly

    Bert, what an excellent idea, to disband the Trust. However, is it actually possible to do this now and how would the funds be distributed? That said, if there was a Trust election tomorrow (I don’t believe Shetland has ever had one), I’d quite happily vote for members of Sustainable Shetland to be the Trustees.

    Reply
  7. Jim Fraser

    Bert,

    The SCT has been renamed; it’s called the Viking Energy Trust.

    Reply
  8. Stewart Mack

    I’m not convinced OSCR look a proper Charlie, i’ve taken a very different view on the above to Mr Fox, however Mr Fox probably has all the communications (and Turcan Connells legal advice) so its not right to form a view from one piece of communication taken out of context.
    Personally, i dont agree that the conflict of interest was there to the extent that some would suggest but, nevertheless the perception is just as important as the reality and in the interests of perceived independance, the Trust simply must be seperated from the Council if it,and the Council are to retain even a shred of credibility in this.
    Mind you, independant trustees could very well make the same or similar decisions acting in the interest of the Trust as they are obliged to do. It seems that there are not many posting on here that would be willing, (or it seems,able) to seperate their own views on what they want to achieve from that which is in the best interests of the Trust, and without that you are back to the same conflict of interest but with with different bodies in the seats – There is now a vast amount of money invested in this project (whether you support it or not) and to simply pull out would lose the Trust a significant amount of money. The key purpose of a Trustee is, as i understand it, to act in the best interests of the Trust, nothing more, nothing less. It is a significant responsibility, not to be taken lightly and should not be used as a vehicle for political advantage. Failure to act in the best interests of the Trust would (i believe) bring its own sanctions – Would any members of Sustainable Shetland (or any other “for or against” groups/organisations) be declaring an interest and declining to vote on VE matters? hmm now theres a question!

    Reply
  9. Gordon Harmer

    Strikes me there is a lot of moaning about a conflict of interest that does not exist. But one Jolly person would vote for a conflict of interest in their favour. Kind of says it all, does it not S V?

    Reply
  10. Johan Adamson

    The problem with the VE investment is that it is not in the best interests of the Trust, because it is fairly risky and charities are usually risk averse to protect their funds. The SIC just kind of let the SCT take it over, because they are so closely interlinked and the SIC just think it is their slush fund, for them for big projects (and not for ordinary Shetlanders, who are due christmas bonuses because they helped to create the fund in the oil years) it is not really treated as an investment decision at arms length. It will not benefit all Shetlanders equally either because some will have to live next to these massive turbines and it might ruin their health and their environment. So to protect the money that is left from the SIC and their needs, we need to have Trustees that are not also councillors.

    If the markets had just kept on going up, we might not be having these discussions because we could keep on spending all of the gains in the good years. Now people have realised that maybe we should have kept some money aside for that rainy day. It is the accounting rules which are wrong, which allow you to take all of the gains and not keep back some sort of reserve to soak up any losses or for that rainy day.

    Reply
  11. Johan Adamson

    And the other reason it wont be beneficial is that if any money is made from the project (which is not a certainty) it will be spent on other pet projects and the majority of Shetlanders might not notice the benefits, when business owners get the money and then go bankrupt or then sell their business, the business turns into a multinational which then pulls most of the jobs away from here.

    The benefits we do have is that the Charitable Trust supports Shetland Arts and other Trusts and social services. If you dont use these Trusts, you probably dont feel the benefits.

    Reply
  12. Michael Mackay

    It always amuses me when I read about people who complain about conflict of interest. This is an issue that as far as I can see never be resolved. If you are a councillor or not being a trustee of SCT you will always have a conflict of interest as far as I am concerned because some one will find some excuse to complain about these decisions with their money.

    Reply
  13. Johan Adamson

    Anyway, the SCT has no choice but to change its Trustees from being Councillors because if it doesnt, the SIC auditors will consolidate SCT and SIC accounts because they also recognise that the SIC use the SCT as a fund for their most recent pet project. It would be better if these people were elected and not chosen or selected because councillors will select those who they think will be doing their bidding rather than looking after the interests of the electorate.

    Reply
  14. S V Jolly

    Gordon: “Strikes me there is a lot of moaning about a conflict of interest that does not exist. But one Jolly person would vote for a conflict of interest in their favour. Kind of says it all, does it not S V?”

    Oh, the irony of it. I just knew that if it was on the other foot someone would allege a conflict of interest. Lay the trap and someone will spring it!

    SuS do not own land like the SIC does nor does it have the statutory powers, etc. Besides, SIC were the instigators of VE. It would appear you are confusing a conflict of interest with a biased opinion.

    Reply
  15. Gordon Harmer

    So you know more than the legal experts who said there was no conflict of interest regarding the councillors who are on the trust. You have been reading Billy Fox`s interpretation of a conflict of interest, as far as councillors are concerned. If you believe that side of his argument then you should also accept the other reason he did not vote. Because of his connection with SuS being a conflict of interest.

    Wise up S V, if you are going to spring a trap get your facts right and then you will not look so foolish by having the trap spring shut on your own fingers.

    Reply
  16. John Tulloch

    What Billy Fox is suggesting, I think, is that OSCR has performed a “volte face,” having cited “irreconcilable conflicts of interest” as a reason for urgent change in the charitable trust constitution and yet finding no “conflict of interest” in the trust’s meeting of June 28th with no change whatsoever in its structure.

    Billy also says ” … I do not think the trust need worry about OSCR, it appears to be toothlessly inconsistent.”

    “Toothless” is not how I would have described OSCR previously and they sounded pretty serious, so what has happened in the interim?

    Has it been sedated and/or had its teeth pulled? Or is someone holding its tender parts in their pliers?

    Or were they just wrong the first time, in which case no change is needed to the trust?

    Perhaps OSCR’s legal department should have consulted Turcan Connell before its leader passed such strident comments, only to reverse them in his next breath, leaving his organisation looking like a paper tiger?

    Reply
  17. S V Jolly

    Gordon, on the contrary, I’m reflecting back on my time as a Complaints Investigation Officer with a Local Authority, not to mention time spent in compliance in city institutions. If the Regulator had been 100% happy with the SCT, they wouldn’t have requested its reform to counteract the dominant position of it being made up mainly of Councillors, now would they? Might I respectfully suggest you go and look at other Trusts and how they deal with conflicts of interests? Perish the thought, you might actually learn something in the process.

    Reply
  18. Gordon Harmer

    S V, I have read up on charitable trusts and my interpretation of the rules tells me any one who has links with SuS would 100% have a conflict of interest.
    There are none so blind as those who don’t want to see, and none so deaf as those who don’t want to hear. Good qualifications for a Complaints Investigation Officer.

    Reply
  19. Johan Adamson

    Gordon, is it not well documented that BF had a conflict of interest, no one is disputing that, are they? Other councillors are in the supporters group, surely, did they declare a conflict? Other councillors/Trustees also thought there was a conflict of interest and abstained or stayed away. SV, didnt know you were in compliance, so was I, in collective investment schemes (IMRO/FSA).

    Reply
  20. Gordon Harmer

    Johan, that is nothing to do with the point I am making to S V, he said he would vote for a member of SuS to be a trustee. What I am saying is if anything is a conflict of interest that certainly is.
    If any councillors are in the supporters group maybe they should also declare a conflict of interest. To be quite honest I am not aware of any councillors / trustees admitting to this, maybe you could enlighten me.

    Reply
  21. James Mackenzie

    Hmm, interesting the assumption Gordon makes that S V is a “he”.

    Reply
  22. Gordon Harmer

    Sooner an assumer than a deceiver James!

    Reply
  23. James Mackenzie

    At the risk of going off topic again, who’s deceiving whom?

    Reply
  24. Gordon Harmer

    Exactly James!

    Reply
  25. Ms S V Jolly

    @ James Mackenzie – oh, most definitely Viking!

    Reply
  26. John Tulloch

    Billy Fox quotes OSCR above

    “While we note your concern about having a personal conflict of interest as a result of your previous relationship with Sustainable Shetland, we consider there to be a distinction between a conflict of interest and a difference of opinion on a particular issue, with the latter not impinging on an individual’s ability to participate in a decision regarding that issue.

    Gordon Harmer comments

    “S V, I have read up on charitable trusts and my interpretation of the rules tells me any one who has links with SuS would 100% have a conflict of interest.”

    Sounds like Gordon knows more about it than the legal experts at OSCR!

    On the beach again!

    Reply
  27. John Kryton

    Mr Mackenzie- you will find a perfect example of deception in a letter to the Shetland News, by one of your more outspoken members. Further more that letter is written to that web site as the author knows she would get ripped to pieces on several counts if she published it on here.
    I also find it amusing how you have a go at Mr Harmer for assuming Ms Jolly was a “he” and yet when someone once asked you what Sustainable Shetland actually did, there was silence. This may make people believe your main aim is to belittle wind farm supporters.

    Reply
  28. Vivienne Rendall

    To an outsider living in Northumberland but a frequent visitor to Shetland for the last forty years there definitely does seem to be a conflict of interest where councillors are also trustees on the Shetland Charitable Trust. How can there not be a conflict of interest when a person is wearing two hats? If ‘legal experts’ say there is no conflict of interest then it just confirms the saying that ‘the law is an ass’.

    Reply
  29. John Tulloch

    Mr Kryton,

    It seems you are trying to besmirch SuS as an organisation by smearing an un-named correspondent to another blog without explaining your comment.

    I’m sure Mr harmer would be the first to tell you if you have evidence of deception you should expose it as such and show why you think that to be the case.

    I’m equally sure the Shetland News would happily publish your rebuttal of the statement(s) you claim are false and amount to deceit.

    Reply
  30. Gordon Harmer

    Interpretation John, interpretation not what I know, get it right Mr caught hook line and sinker, yet again. You’ve got more spin than a fairground walzer, that’s probably why you make such dizzy statements.

    Reply
  31. James Mackenzie

    Apologies to Mr. Kryton, I can’t recall someone asking me personally what Sustainable Shetland actually does. But I would respectfully suggest that its website, and several recent news items, will give anyone asking that question the answer.

    I’ll leave Mr. Kryton’s allegations about the letter-writer to Shetland News to answer them herself, if she so wishes. There’s probably not much point.

    End of story, as far as I’m concerned. Thank you.

    Reply
  32. Sandy McMillan

    You all ramble on about these so called Trustees, A Trustee is somone who looks after your affaires, not take £6.3 million and throw it into the face of force ten gale, now the funny part the council will not be able to use the Charitable Trust even if they hit a stick wicket, But it will be alright for Councillor Ratter and not forgetting our Dr Wills to had over millions to Viking Energy, if the council cant use the Charitable Trust, why should the Trustees, the Shetland Charitable Trust safe should be locked and only opened in a dire emergency, and for the needy of the Shetland Isles.
    Sandy McMillan

    Reply
  33. John Tulloch

    Gordon,

    I’m trying to understand your argument so please bear with me.

    Let’s remind ourselves what you said to SV Jolly above.

    “S V, I have read up on charitable trusts and my interpretation of the rules tells me any one who has links with SuS would 100% have a conflict of interest.”

    “100 PERCENT”! You’re obviously pretty confident. Let’s see.

    “I have read up on charitable trusts..” This statement suggests to me that you think you know what you are talking about – what do the experts make of it?

    “read up (riːd). —vb (when intr, often foll by on). to acquire information about (a subject) by reading intensively. Collins English Dictionary”

    The act of “reading intensively” surely leads to acquisition of knowledge in an intelligent mind, does it not?

    So when you tell us you have “read up on charitable trusts” it’s reasonable to infer you are telling your debating opponent that you have excellent knowledge of that subject.

    Yet Billy Fox quotes the regulator OSCR – surely an expert – a few paragraphs earlier stating the opposite of your “interpretation.”

    And now, when challenged, you say it was only your “interpretation, not what you know.”

    Do you stand by your “interpretation” against OSCR’s or do you now accept you were WRONG, in which latter case readers’ own “interpretations” might well be that you were attempting to “deceive” your opponent SV.
    .

    Reply
  34. Gordon Harmer

    John.
    Billy Fox at the end of his letter says this about OSCR so your quote is null and void. “Trust governance must change for the Shetland public’s sake and it must be democratic but I do not think the trust need worry about OSCR, it appears to be toothlessly inconsistent”.

    The reason you don’t understand my argument is that you don’t want to, as usual you twist and add spin to what I say to try and make yourself look clever (unsuccessfully). If you had read what I said you would realise that I said to Ms Jolly, Billy also chose not vote because of his connection with SuS being a conflict of interest. Something he believed and absolutely nothing to do with what OSCR said in their letter to him.

    Yes I 100% stand by my comments on my interpretation of charitable trusts and conflict of interest. Especially if they are brought into question by a quote from a toothless and inconsistent organisation as well as someone who can’t (or doesn’t want to) understand a reasoned argument.

    As for me being wrong at least I know Orkney and Shetland have their own MSP and do not share one and Mrs Thatcher is not a life peer. So practice what you preach,“read up (riːd). —vb (when intr, often foll by on). to acquire information about (a subject) by reading intensively. Collins English Dictionary”.
    Finally to quote you “on your bike”.

    Reply
  35. John Tulloch

    Gordon,

    At last we’ve established that you think know more about charitable trust law than OSCR.

    It’s toffee n’ a’penny, lad – ya can’t ‘ave both!

    Reply
  36. John Tulloch

    Gordon,

    Here’s Billy’s OSCR quote again, read it this time

    “While we note your concern about having a personal conflict of interest as a result of your previous relationship with Sustainable Shetland, we consider there to be a distinction between a conflict of interest and a difference of opinion on a particular issue, with the latter not impinging on an individual’s ability to participate in a decision regarding that issue – this appears to be confirmed by the advice of 25 June. ”

    You may think that Billy Fox calling OSCR toothless” and “inconsistent” renders this quote void however I doubt whether OSCR would agree.

    Anyway, it’s good to see you agreeing with Billy Fox’s view of OSCRs “inconsistency,”

    “Yes I 100% stand by my comments on my interpretation of charitable trusts and conflict of interest. Especially if they are brought into question by a quote from a toothless and inconsistent organisation…”

    Your own words, not mine and they show that having considered Billy’s opinion, you accept it – unlike many other intransigent wind farm supporters who would have rejected it, automatically, unthinking. SuS are making progress.

    Other windfarm supporters should follow your unifying lead.

    Reply
  37. Gordon Harmer

    John, I don’t care what OSCR have said now or ever they have given contradictory advice all the way through this. Billy made it clear he beleived he had a conflict of interest because of his association with SuS as well as his council links. This contradicts OSCR, in my eyes.

    My opinion on this matter also contradicts OSCR and according to you I know more than OSCR. Therefore we must assume Billy also knows more than OSCR in your eyes. So is Billy wrong or right? . Answer; neither, his interpretation of charitable trust law is different from OSCR’s as is mine.

    Because I consider Billy’s opinion I accept it, not always the case, in this case I do and he said this after resigning his position with SuS. Which contradicts your claim of SuS making progress.

    Finally John, (and I mean Finally) I agree SuS have a part to play in this matter I just think their director has cast them in the wrong roll. Have you thought of applying for the part of their spin doctor because you have passed all the auditions.

    Reply
  38. John Tulloch

    Gordon,

    I already know you don’t care what OSCR says – or about what anyone else says
    for that matter – you are too busy creating a smokescreen of retorts and obfuscation to listen.

    I always like people who have the courage to speak out against the establishment, however; poor Stuart Hill gets a terrible press and as, like him, you are now in conflict with government authority maybe you should offer your own services as a spin doctor – to Forvik, you’ll be at home among the rebels.

    Reply

Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to editorial@shetlandtimes.co.uk for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.