Reasons for trust compromise

It is not surprising to find such a disparity between the results of the online and postal opinion polls conducted by The Shetland Times last week, on the future composition of the Shetland Charitable Trust.

Online polls are notoriously unreliable and easy to manipulate; and the postal sample was extremely small; but it does look as if there may be a majority for ending any possibility of elected trustees having a majority. I find that rather hard to believe but life is full of surprises, not all of them pleasant.

There is no way of knowing, of course, because, unfortunately, neither Shetland Charitable Trust nor the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) intends to conduct a proper survey of public opinion.

That is why it is so important for members of the public to write to OSCR and make their views known before it is too late. I urge them to do so, whether they wish to see a self-appointing trust board in perpetuity, or whether they support the all-elected solution proposed by Peter Hamilton and his group.

It is not surprising either that, at this stage, there appears to be so little support for my compromise proposal of eight directly elected trustees and seven appointed. However, the reality is that neither the wholly-undemocratic nor the wholly-democratic solution is likely to gain favour with the trust or with OSCR, which is why I put forward what seemed to me a reasonable and workable compromise.

The trust should indeed steer clear of politics in its daily operations but the matter of who sits on its board and how they are chosen is inherently and inescapably a political question: do the people get to vote for trustees or do they not?

It was therefore more than a little dismaying to see that the Lord Lieutenant of the County, as the impartial chairman of the trust, saw fit to intervene in a very political manner by, firstly, forbidding any public discussion of my proposal at the trust meeting, and then by moving and voting for a resolution to force through his extreme and unworkable proposal to retain four councillors on the trust, together with their inevitable conflicts of interest.

But that is something for the Lord Lieutenant to discuss with his Sovereign. My personal opinion is that allowing the lieutenancy to become mixed up with local politics risks bringing the monarchy into disrepute but, as we have seen before, my opinion is of no consequence in the counsels of the Great and the Good.

What matters is not my opinion but that of your readers. I understand that OSCR will be in Shetland next Tuesday (7th June). I will be away, visiting family on The Big Island Over the Horizon, but I hope anyone with ideas on this important topic will either ask to speak to an OSCR representative here or, in any case, write giving their opinions on the future of the trust.

The address is: David Robb, Chief executive, Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, Quadrant House, 9 Riverside Drive, Dundee, DD1 4NY.

To save on a stamp, the email address is: The phone number is 01382 220446.

Meanwhile, if anyone would like to discuss my own proposal in more detail, I’d be happy to talk. My number is 07831 217042.

Jonathan Wills
Shetland Islands Council
Town Hall,


Add Your Comment
  • John Tulloch

    • May 30th, 2016 12:10

    The Lord Lieutenant has brought both his position and the monarchy into disrepute and he should resign.

    Why is he even on the charitable trust, far less, its chairman?

    The trust isn’t supposed to be Shetland’s answer to the House of Lords. Its money belongs to the Shetland people, not to the trustees and not to the Queen.

  • George Dickson

    • May 30th, 2016 13:37

    The Lord Lieutenant, and almost every single trustee of the Shetland Charitable Trust are only there to look after themselves. From the very beginning, each and every single one of them should have gained their position by being voted in and the vote should recur every four or five years. At least then, every trustee has to answer to the common man and explain how and why every action has taken place.

    Unfortunately, up until now they have all done as they please and they have not had to explain themselves. That is utterly wrong.

  • Michael Garriock

    • May 30th, 2016 14:46

    Lets face it Jonathan, the SIC were the architects and engineers of the den of vipers that the SCT has become, by holding on to whatever control of it they could until the last possible moment. Manfully led by a Convenor at the time with an attitude something along the lines of “we’ve always run the trust this way, and we’re not changing for anyone”, who apprently none dared stand up to even when the writing was on the wall that the OSCR was going to force change regardless.

    Yet its us, the public who are supposed to either live with the unjustifiable and untenable, or force change now. Why should we bother, after all, the SCT is already doomed to be bankrupted as long as it backs VE, so what’s left to save.

    If the SIC trustees had had the wit to see what everyone else could see coming, and had stepped down gracefully to make way for all democratically elected trustees long before the OSCR began to smell the stench in the air and stick their politically motivated oar in, the SCT and Shetland would be much better off today.

    • John Tulloch

      • May 30th, 2016 15:12

      Indeed, Michael. However, we are where we are and we need to look forward, not back. Jonathan, in fairness, made a big fuss about this last time around, too.

      We need to write to OSCR as Jonathan suggests and for anyone who isn’t already aware, there is a petition and calling for SCT democracy which we all need to sign at:

  • Ian michael norman Tinkler

    • June 4th, 2016 22:54

    “However, we also expect charity trustees, in the exercise of all or any of their duties, to take into account the views of their beneficiaries and the reputation of their charity.”
    David Robb
    Chief Executive
    Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator
    Now just when did Dr. Jonathan Wills, a Trustee of the Shetland Charitable Trust ever do that?
    Dr. Wills, your hypocrisy knows no ends.


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