Surprise attempt to cut SIC representation on charitable trust
The SIC’s political leader Gary Robinson was thwarted in his attempt to cut the number of councillors on the reformed Shetland Charitable Trust from seven to three.
Following tortuous efforts in recent years to reform the trust, which controls over £200 million of the community’s oil wealth, it was agreed last year that councillors’ sway over the charity would be diluted.
Rather than all 22 councillors having the right to be a trustee, alongside two independent members, the slimmed-down trust will have eight appointed trustees and seven elected members.
Mr Robinson’s suggestion came during Wednesday morning’s Full Council meeting. He argued that members had “enough to be going on with ourselves” and he had “no wish to be seen holding a controlling or significant interest in the charitable trust”.
The trust’s chairman Drew Ratter and vice-chairman Jonathan Wills opposed Mr Robinson’s surprise move. Dr Wills said changing course now would “imperil the whole process of reform” and might mean the trust having to go back to charities regulator OSCR with a fresh reform proposal.
“The trust is vital to the future of Shetland,” he said. “If we derail the process at this stage, we’re going to cause chaos.”
Dr Wills added that an independent review of the trust’s new structure was due to take place within three years. He is in favour of eliminating councillors’ involvement altogether in the long term, but remains unhappy that other trustees are to be appointed rather than directly elected.
Mr Robinson did get some support from others for restricting the number of councillors to three. Among his backers was Michael Stout, who argued councillors should be taking decisions in the interests of the local authority alone. But the political leader lost a vote on the matter by 13 to nine.
The seven SIC councillors who will sit on the trust are Malcolm Bell (who attracted 21 votes), Peter Campbell, Robert Henderson, Andrea Manson, Drew Ratter, George Smith and Jonathan Wills. Ten councillors had been nominated, with Allison Duncan and Mr Stout being eliminated following a ballot and Allan Wishart withdrawing from contention.
The chosen seven will be joined on the newly-reformed trust by eight appointed trustees. Interviews were conducted in late November and the appointments are due to be approved and announced following the trust’s meeting on Thursday.
The charitable trust spends £11 million a year funding leisure centres, the arts and amenity trusts, care homes and variety of other services.