The Lord Lieutenant says he hopes the new council, to be elected on May 4th, will take up the four seats offered on the Shetland Charitable Trust, which he currently chairs (The Shetland Times, 24th February).
He does not explain why councillors would wish to be in a permanent, token minority of 26.6 per cent on the trust, while at the same time risking conflicts of interest that could stop them voting on things like the annual grant to keep the council’s old folks’ homes open.
Nor does his offer solve the problem of the government auditors “grouping” the trust and council accounts – treating the trust as a subsidiary of the council – if there are any councillors on it at all. This poses obvious financial risks to both organisations, for the auditors know fine well that most of the services the trust pays for are things the council would want to do itself if the trust were not there.
The solution is simple: have an independent trust with a majority of directly elected trustees. Nothing else can solve the rapidly widening democratic deficit in the management of almost half of Shetland’s oil money.
As the charity regulator (Oscr) will shortly tell us, the remedy lies in the hands of the trustees. Their current proposal for an unelected majority is, of course, perfectly legal. The point is that it is undemocratic and wrong.
An elected majority is also perfectly legal and feasible. Hopefully that will be the solution adopted when the trustees have reflected on the unprecedented number of representations from the public about this issue.
Vice-chairman, Shetland Charitable Trust