Future of the Shetland Charitable Trust (Jonathan Wills)

As your readers may know, the Shetland Charitable Trust is at present reviewing its governance arrangements, four years after the re-organisation which reduced the number of trustees to 15 and left councillor trustees in a minority of seven to the eight appointed trustees.

There is a proposal to reduce the number of councillors further, to just four. This will not resolve the perceived “conflict of interest” problem, nor the problem of the trust’s accounts still being “grouped” by Audit Scotland, as if the trust were a subsidiary of the council.

The solution appears to be for there no longer to be any councillors at all on the trust, given the difficulties so much publicised in recent years. However, given the intrinsic public character of the trust fund, due to its origins as public money and its purpose being the benefit of “the inhabitants of the Shetland Islands”, it seems reasonable to propose that the public should still have a say in who controls the trust.

Jonathan Wills has written a discussion paper on the future of Shetland Charitable Trust. He is keen to hear the views of Shetland Times readers about the possibilities for reform of the trust’s make-up. Follow the link to read the paper: 160424_JW_Media.docx

Therefore there is a suggestion that eight of the trustees be nominated by public election and the remaining seven appointed after interview; or some other arrangement whereby the public regains majority representation on the trust.

I would be interested to know the views of your readers on this important issue of public policy. Do they support the principle of an elected majority of trustees, or would they be content to see the public’s representatives reduced to four out of 15?

Councillor Jonathan Wills

Lerwick South ward

Town Hall,



Add Your Comment
  • John Tulloch

    • April 26th, 2016 10:27

    As Jonathan has taken considerable time and trouble to write the informative paper (linked from the above article), perhaps a representative of those he refers to as the “Undemocrats” will accord the public similar respect by regaling us with their rationale for moving to eleven appointed trustees and four councillors?

  • John Tulloch

    • April 26th, 2016 10:44

    We are indebted to Jonathan for raising this issue, albeit, in mid-election. However, it gives rise to further questions, including:

    1. Why have any appointed trustees?
    2. If councillors as beneficiaries should be excluded, should not, also, paid appointees of the Scottish government to NHS Shetland Health Board, another potential beneficiary, be excluded?
    3. Why should trustees not receive some token remuneration for their efforts, as do members of NHS Shetland Health Board? This should help to expand the availability of candidates. Well-off individuals who wish to remain as purely volunteers can return their money to the trust.
    4. In the absence of all trustees being elected, should not the chair and vice chair be directly elected?

    • Robin Stevenson

      • April 26th, 2016 16:30

      What you’re referring to here is a form of democracy John, much the same as informing WS members prior to them joining that you fully expect them to just go along with whichever political party you choose for them?….Oh wait!

      • John Tulloch

        • April 26th, 2016 19:53

        Robin Stevenson,

        Shetland voters will note your childish attempt to introduce petty party politics into this serious issue and will treat the SNP and ‘cuts denier’ Danus Skene with richly deserved contempt on polling day.

      • Robert Duncan

        • April 26th, 2016 19:55

        Could we have just one page without this pointless bickering?

        I support Jonathan Wills’ proposal.

    • Ray Purchase

      • April 27th, 2016 18:48

      John Tulloch, I think you greatly overestimate the influence that the comments here have on the voters of Shetland.

  • Kathy Greaves

    • April 26th, 2016 11:54

    I think that four councillors out of fifteen trustees is about right, they should be able to give valuable input to trustees meetings. Public perception of ‘conflict of interest’ will not go away until or unless this is sorted.

  • Haydn Gear

    • April 26th, 2016 23:56

    Robert Duncan—-What do you mean by bickering in these columns? Such pathetic behaviour never appears. Intelligent ,,reasonable , well considered and respectful correspondence is always par for the course. Ask Ian Tinkler . He will confirm this in his inimitable fashion !!!!!!!!!!!

  • Johan Adamson

    • April 27th, 2016 9:32

    I think the majority should be elected and not selected although I am not sure why we need appointed ones. I am not sure that the selection process has worked in the past and could not be challenged. And of late we have had less control over what happens at SCT, so we need to vote to give us back that control. There is no reason why there should not be a ballot paper for this at the same time as we elect councillors, but hopefully with a different set of names: Can you stand for both?

  • Andy Ross

    • April 28th, 2016 10:49

    Dear sir,
    I am not in the habit of writing letters to the paper, but this week I have found myself writing two. Both have been about subjects which I think are very important, mental health being the first, and democracy being the second.

    This letter is in support of Jonathan Will’s proposal for the “re-democratisation” of the Charitable Trust. As an incomer to Shetland, I have been lucky enough to live in a place where the Charitable Trust’s money has had a huge impact and benefit, working alongside Council to support us all. I will not pretend to know much about how it all works, but what I do know, having come from a country, Zimbabwe, where democracy is not as robust as it is in the UK, and having just been in a situation where the same applies, I am proud to know that we have a system that works, and I would not like to see it compromised.

    I was not in Shetland when oil came to the islands. I cannot claim to have any rights over it except that I believe I am part of a society and community which should decide what happens with that money. The money will be here long after I am gone and it is up to us to ensure that it is well looked-after and stewarded. I am not, in any way, criticising or implying that the money has not been well-used in the main up until now. It is what has benefitted me and others after all, and allows us to continue to live here. What I am saying is that, for the interests of clarity and to avoid conflicts, Mr Will’s proposition seems sensible, and I would like to add my name to the supporters.


Add 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.

200 words left

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


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.