Simple solution for the trustees (Jonathan Wills)

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.

Jonathan Wills
Vice-chairman, Shetland Charitable Trust



Add Your Comment
  • Alan Skinner

    • February 25th, 2017 17:51

    I agree completely with Dr Wills. I don’t believe that the current trustees have devious, fraudulent or malicious motives, but they must make a case for why they hate the concept of democracy for the trust. What are they scared of, if the good people of Shetland take over management of the trust? What do they think they have, that makes them entitled to manage the trust? I am afraid that I see no special skills or experience that would explain why they are hanging on, with gritted teeth, to the bitter end.

  • Brian Smith

    • February 26th, 2017 15:23

    Completely logical and rational campaign by Jonathan – he deserves everyone’s thanks.

    • John Tulloch

      • February 27th, 2017 18:34

      Hear, hear!

      As for holding the SG to account for underfunding, I agree, that’s necessary, too. However that’s Gary Robinson’s and OIOF’s job (with backing from councillors), not Jonathan’s.

      This is a vital battle which must be won.

      • Robin Stevenson

        • February 28th, 2017 15:03

        Scottish Government underfunding what councils John? Do you mean the almost £2,000,000,000 (that’s 2 billion) that councils are sitting on at the moment? Is that the underfunding you’re on about?

      • John Tulloch

        • February 28th, 2017 17:17

        Robin, I was referring to the point made by Ali Inkster about SIC underfunding, in the context of this thread which is about the important issue of the undemocratic restructuring of Shetland Charitable Trust.

        Have a look at the Wir Shetland Facebook page, in particular, the item posted on 23rd February, which has a graph illustrating Shetland funding versus funding received by the Scottish government, from Westminster.

        I understand the actual data were obtained by Freedom of Information request from the Scottish government so, presumably, they are correct.

      • ian tinkler

        • February 28th, 2017 17:52

        So Robin Stevenson, The SG/SNP is going to finance its own negligent, spend thrift, self serving policies by bleeding Scotland’s Councils dry? It really is time for Shetland to move on.

      • Robin Stevenson

        • March 1st, 2017 20:21

        You’ve obviously not read the article I linked, Ian? But then again, why should you if it isn’t an ‘SNP BaaaD’ story?

        I’m afraid in this case it has nothing to do with the SNP Scottish Government, but everything to do with our 32 councils that are sitting on a surplus… (I’ll repeat that for you as I know it takes a wee while to sink in).. That’s an underspend of nearly £2 Billion.

        So all these months we’ve been listening to councils and politicians moaning away about how the wicked SNP is underfunding councils in order to – what was it you said?

        “The SG/SNP is going to finance its own negligent, spend thrift, self serving policies by bleeding Scotland’s Councils dry”.

        Has turned out to be utter baloney… Quel surprise! ????

      • ian tinkler

        • March 2nd, 2017 7:23

        AS I said, Robin Stevenson, it is time for Shetland to move on. I and many others can see exactly what the SG/SNP are doing for Shetland and Scotland. With the SNP hell bent io independence, quite irrespective of the views and welfare of Shetland folk, it is time to move on. If the people of Scotland wish to be part of the Nationalist herd and break away from the UK, so be it. Just be under no illusion whatsoever, Shetland folk are not part of the Sturgeon/Salmond flock, and simply will not follow, like lemmings. It would appear Orkney folk are becoming of the same view. “As you sow so shall you reap.”

  • Ali Inkster

    • February 26th, 2017 15:51

    This letter points out without actually saying it. The council funding is not enough to provide the essential services so the trust has to step in and fund them instead. Councilor Wills time would be better spent holding holyrood to account for the underfunding.

    • Graham Fleming

      • March 1st, 2017 20:15

      Shetland to move on to where, cloud cuckoo land.The regular bleats ,have not told us how much the council tax is to rise by, business rates to soar, or more general taxation is needed to fund a separate Shetland navy to guard it’s 3 mile of coast, the 40% public sector(Twice the British average) or a new barrage of civil servants required to service the separate Shetland state. I would be intrigued to find the figures they claim Shetland is underfunded by compared to the rest of Scotland because no other area has such largesse in employment in government roles already.

  • Johan Adamson

    • February 28th, 2017 9:58

    It’s just so telling that Dr Wills is having to make this all public. You would think in a Trust like this he would have the power to stop this change altogether, since it is wrong, but he seemingly can’t – who can? Us? As Alan Skinner says above, what do the Trustees have to fear from being elected?

  • Peter Hamilton

    • February 28th, 2017 15:10

    Indeed, it is almost as if they were hiding something – the full cost of Viking Energy perhaps. If current trustees are bound to silence, future trustees elected on the basis of furthering openness and transparency might refuse to hold their tongues…

    • Christopher Johnston

      • March 1st, 2017 1:18

      If new trustees are appointed by the Trust, they could be required to sign a Nondisclosure Agreement as a condition of their appointment. This Agreement could require they keep mute on certain matters – a latter day Official Secrets Act.
      Elected trustees should be immune.

      • Graham Fleming

        • March 3rd, 2017 12:28

        How much is a Shetland navy going to cost Mr Tinkler – no answer.How many more employed by the state from 40% now(no costings)to finding an entire new civil service -no answer.How is Shetland able to employ at present nearly twice the Scottish average(really really badly done to) – no answer.Moving to the real world people do like ANSWERS especially at election time from candidates but I am sure answers will be found.How the electorate react to them Tha gu dearth.

      • Gordon Harmer

        • March 3rd, 2017 16:54

        Graham Fleming, if you researched “British Overseas Territory” all your questions would be answered. Judging by your previous comments research is not your strongest subject.

  • ian tinkler

    • March 6th, 2017 9:34

    What a piece of the sublimely ridiculous comment, from Graham Fleming.” How much is a Shetland Navy going to cost”, Surly Graham can not be unaware of the Falklands and Gibraltar!!? Now just where do there defense forces come from? Now surely Graham Fleming can not be unaware of NATO? Now Shetland, by nature of position and resource (Shetland Faeroe and Faeroe Iceland Gaps and also Oil rigs) is in an extremely vital strategic position. Norway, The North Atlantic and oil resources are all vital for security of the UK and NATO allies. We would look there for our defense Graham so please do not fret, Unlike the SG/SNP, I do not think Shetland would wish to divorce itself from NATO and mutual self defense.. (Cost 2% of GDP, so simples Graham, now look it up and cut the stupid nonsense questions)


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