More than 450 people have supported this newspaper’s Trust Democracy campaign which urges Shetland Charitable Trust to reconsider its plans to reduce the number of councillor trustees from seven to four.
A total of 367 people signed their names to the cut-out coupons in The Shetland Times, while an additional 85 supported the campaign online – giving a total of 452.
Meanwhile, the charity regulator said it had received 29 representations directly ahead of Thursday’s consultation deadline.
Oscr says it will only approve the trust’s controversial reorganisation if it meets the necessary legal criteria.
Vice-chairman of Shetland Charitable Trust, Jonathan Wills, is steadfast against proposals to cut the number of councillor-trustees. He said the final tally of campaign supporters far outweighs the response to a previous 2012 consultation, which only yielded reactions from 68 people.
But he had harsh words for trust chairman Bobby Hunter, and accused him of failing to maintain impartiality over the debate.
“I’m very grateful to everyone who wrote in – whatever their opinion, it’s good they’ve expressed it,” said Dr Wills.
“I’m now hopeful that Oscr will realise this is a matter of considerable public concern.
“It’s something like seven times the responses there was in 2012, when Oscr consulted on a change from council majority to council minority.
“Shetland Islands Council and the Association of Community Councils have all expressed an opinion that the trust should have at least a majority of elected members.”
He added: “I would like to say, it is deplorable that the Lord Lieutenant [Mr Hunter], the Queen’s representative – an unelected member of the trust – who promised me he would remain impartial, did not remain impartial, bringing the monarchy into politics.
“Over a year ago he told me he would remain neutral in the discussion over whether or not to have a majority of elected trustees.
“He did not remain neutral, on the contrary, he became partisan for that policy of having an undemocratic trust.”
Mr Hunter said he “completely refuted” Dr Wills’ claims that he had acted without impartiality.
“The decision the trust made on this was a majority decision, with only two dissenters. I didn’t express my opinion until such time as the vote came. It’s quite erroneous to say I was biased in any way in chairing it.”
Mr Hunter said he was pleased people had engaged in the campaign.
“I’m delighted that folk are interested in the trust, and everyone has their right to express an opinion, and I’m delighted they have expressed their opinion.”
He added: “It’s not a huge proportion of the electorate, that’s for sure. But everybody is entitled to their opinion.”
Oscr’s head of casework, Martin Tyson said it was too early to comment on the content of the representations.
“When we publish our final decision on the application, that will include a description of the number and kind of representations we’ve had, whether for or against the scheme.
“The closing date for representations is 23rd February 2017, and we’ll only consider the representations we’ve had by that date.”
The charitable trust would be shown “any representations made and give their responses if they wish to”.
Mr Tyson added: “We’ll then look at both the responses and Shetland Charitable Trust’s views, as one part of the process of assessing the reorganisation scheme itself.
“Representations inform the process but they don’t determine the outcome.
“The decision we make is bound by a fairly detailed set of legal criteria, which were set out in the summary published back in January.
“If the representations people send are relevant to whether or not the reorganisation meets those criteria, we can take them into account. If they aren’t, we can’t.
“There are two possible decisions we can make. If we think Shetland Charitable Trust’s reorganisation scheme meets the criteria the law requires then we can approve it, and it would then be up to Shetland Charitable Trust to put the reorganisation into effect. If we feel it does not meet the criteria then we will refuse it.”