A proposal that all members of Shetland Charitable Trust should be elected was agreed unanimously at today’s biannual meeting of the Association of Shetland Community Councils (ASCC).
The meeting also agreed that other trust members could be co-opted for certain periods of time where necessary.
Members had before them a discussion paper written by current charitable trustee Jonathan Wills, who proposes that the 15-strong trust be comprised of eight elected members and seven appointed trustees.
Candidates standing for election would require to be nominated by at least five registered Shetland electors and voting would be by a postal ballot of all registered electors, Dr Wills proposed.
Using his method no canvassing or advertising would be permitted but in the official election circular, sent out with the ballot paper, candidates would be allocated space for a photo and 400 words describing the skills, experience and ideas they would bring to the trust.
Chairman Jim Gear said the ASCC’s view previously was that all charitable trust members should be elected.
John Hunter, representing Scalloway Community Council, said: “I couldn’t disagree with that. The charitable trust wields a lot of power and you want the public to be responsible for elections.”
Mr Hunter’s motion was seconded by Lerwick representative Averil Simpson.
Vice-chairman Jim Anderson said there would need to be “a facility to co-opt people for a specific period of time whatever that may be”. For instance certain projects would require specialist input.
Mr Hunter said he had no problem with advisers being added whenever necessary. His motion was carried unanimously and the ASCC will now write to the charitable trust pointing out its views.
Following the meeting Democracy for Shetland’s Charitable Trust campaigner Peter Hamilton said it was good that the ASCC had renewed its strong and clear position.
He also called on MSP Tavish Scott to make clear his position on the make-up of the trust.
Mr Hamilton said: “The [ASCC representatives] are accountable and they speak for how folk are feeling across the whole of Shetland. Unfortunately it will be all too easy for OSCR and Shetland Charitable Trust to ignore them, just as the trust ignored our elected councillors when they voted for a return to democratic accountability for the trust.
“The one thing that won’t be ignored is if Shetland were to speak as one on this. Our elected bodies must not be ignored – that an affront to us all – and the person we pay to make sure that does not happen is our local MSP.
“So I very much hope Tavish Scott will choose this time to make his thoughts clear. Hopefully he will back our council and our community councils. Shetland’s political parties might well then back his lead and the trust will then have nowhere to hide.
“We simply can’t have half a dozen folk on our charitable trust acting as a law unto themselves, ignoring public bodies and the folk they are there to serve.”