21st November 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Oscr approves trust reorganisation

The charity regulator has thrown out arguments in favour of greater democratic control at Shetland Charitable Trust – despite being petitioned by hundreds of people in a Shetland Times campaign.

Oscr has sent notification to the trust that it has approved its request to implement a reorganisation scheme, which will see the number of elected councillor trustees reduced from seven to four.

The change opens up the possibility that there may be no democratic control at all over Shetland’s oil millions, because the outgoing council agreed there should be no councillors sitting on the trust.

Almost 500 people responded to a consultation process launched by the regulator.

The organisation says there is no provision in terms of the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 for anyone to request a review or appeal of the decision.

The charitable trustees proposed to make a number of controversial changes to its constitution. It has now been given the backing by Oscr to:

• Amend the objects clause in the current trust deed;
• Amend the trust deed to give the trustees the power to make changes to the provisions of the trust deed, if approved by a 75 per cent majority vote;
• Amend the Schedule of Governance arrangements.

Oscr had published a summary on its website after it had received the reorganisation application, which remained online for 28 days.

The regulator stated that anyone who may have been affected by the reorganisation, or who had an interest in it, had the opportunity to make a representation either for or against the scheme.

Head of casework Martin Tyson said: “Shetland Charitable Trust applied for approval of a reorganisation scheme which would allow them to amend their governing document.

The scheme meets the relevant reorganisation conditions and, should it be put into effect, will achieve the outcomes required by law. That is why the Scottish charity regulator has approved it.

“When a charity applies to reorganise, we must assess any representations we receive either for or against the scheme. These representations inform the process but they don’t necessarily determine the outcome. Our decision is based on a set of legal tests that we must apply, and where the views of people making representations are relevant to those tests we take them into account. Where they aren’t relevant we can’t take them into account.

“We are responding to everyone who took the time to make a representation, and our letter explains our decision in detail.
“It’s now up to the Shetland Charitable Trust’s trustees to put the scheme into effect.”

Bobby Hunter

Chairman of Shetland Charitable Trust Bobby Hunter said: “I’m pleased that Oscr has approved the new governance arrangements that were voted for by a decisive majority of trustees on 12th May last year.

“We can now move ahead and implement changes which the charity regulator acknowledges will improve the administration of the trust.”

But Jonathan Wills, who has repeatedly voiced opposition to plans to dilute the level of democratic control, said he was not surprised.

“What the trustees were suggesting was never illegal. It is, however, wrong and undemocratic. The interesting thing is that the remaining trustees now have the power to alter the trust deed to restore a democratic majority, without further reference to Oscr.

“It’s entirely up to them to respond to the undoubted will of Shetland to have democratic control restored over almost half of Shetland’s oil money.”

8 comments

  1. Johan Adamson

    So what happens now if there should be council members but they dont take up these posts?

    Reply
  2. John Tulloch

    OSCR’s chief executive David Robb forced the trust to implement the 2012 proposal to end trust democracy by threatening court action.

    “The meeting took place against a background of severe pressure from OSCR which had threatened to suspend trustees and grab the strings of the £200 million purse unless “positive, urgent” action was taken to reform the charity.

    OSCR’s chief executive David Robb lost patience some time ago and repeated the threat last month after learning of continuing dissent…..”.

    In a letter he accused Dr Wills and his supporters of “flouting” the findings of the trust’s own reform group by persisting with their call for the eight independent trustees to be elected by the people of Shetland instead of selected by a three-strong panel chosen by trustees.

    Mr Robb suggested any trustees dissenting from the reforms approved by OSCR in July should consider their positions. He made it plain that misconduct proceedings could result if the trust did try to put forward an alternative reform proposal at this late stage.”

    Mr Robb would look an even bigger fool if he now forced trustees to reverse his previous, egregious edict.

    Reply
  3. Ian Tinkler

    OSCR, The Charity regulator for Scotland, appointed by, paid by and answerable to? Now would that perhaps be The Scotish Government! Another great reason for Shetland Autonomy. We really must take control of our own laws. just another example of centralised control with absolutely not a care for democratic choice.

    Reply
  4. Jonathan Wills

    It is ironic that I have just been giving a lecture at a university in California about the origins of the Shetland Oil Terminal Environmental Advisory Group (SOTEAG). This involved explaining how the oil revenues of the council came about, as well as the reasons for setting up the Shetland Charitable Trust, 41 years ago, to ensure that the money remained under democratic local control.
    I am relieved that news of OSCR’s lamentable decision did not reach me before my talk at the Soka University of America. It would have been embarrassing and rather hard to explain to the students who, not surprisingly in view of current events on this side of the world, are taking a keen interest in issues concerning democratic principles.
    And, just in case any of da lettertrows grabs the wrong end of the stick, all my expenses for the trip to California were paid by the university.

    Reply
  5. Alan Skinner

    I wonder if anyone comes out of this time-consuming, expensive, frustrating exercise with any sense of satisfaction. I have just read the 11 page “explanation”, which is a masterpiece of legal obfuscation. Does Mr Tyson seriously feel that he has explained their decision? He really just says that he is entitled to ignore the 493 objectors to the reorganisation, and anything to do with accountability.
    Does Mr Hunter come out of it with a warm sense of satisfaction and the knowledge that he and his fellow trustees have received the ringing endorsement of OSCR, as well as the the undying gratitude of the Shetland people for doing such a wonderful job? Somehow I doubt it. His only reaction appears to be that The Shetland Times is biased against him.
    My doomsday scenario is Viking Energy going into administration, SCT writing off its £10 million investment, and the current trustees sitting on their hands, secure in the knowledge that nobody can get rid of them.
    I am certain that all of the individual trustees are honourable people, determined to do their best for Shetland, but they have painted themselves into a very awkward and lonely corner.

    Reply
  6. Michael Garriock

    As if there was ever going to be any other outcome. The regulator didn’t have powers to block this as it was technically ‘legal’, and even if they had, its highly unlikely they’d have chosen to use them.

    The regulator, being in all be name an arm of the Scottish Government, was never going to bite the hand that feeds it, and its very much in the Scottish Government’s interests to increase the ‘Yes (Wo)Men’ puppets in charge of this fund, so that it continues to subsidise local services they should be paying for.

    In protest at this travesty, I would suggest that all Shetlanders should now as far as practicably possible boycott anything and everything provided using SCT funding, as I have done for some years. Likewise, once the new SIC are in place, that they disentangle themselves from any and all relationships with the SCT, plus exert the maximum pressue possible upon the SCT to adopt full democracy. Its the least they owe us, given it was they who dreamed up the concept of using SCT funds to subsidise local services, and despite warnings put in place the mechanisms of increased numbers of appointed SCT trustees.

    Reply
  7. Peter Hamilton

    Well, as OSCR themselves have put it, “the fact is it that councillors are elected and accountable to their electorate only as councillors, not as charity trustees” (Martin Tyson, Head of Casework, 06.04.17), so their ability to “retain the democratic link”, as Tavish Scott has wished for, was always a sham. When, as is to be hoped, the new council sends the same message to SCT as the last one did, that there needs to be directly accountable trustees, Tavish can be now expected to back them. As we now have openly Conservative and SNP candidates, these local political parties can also be expected to take a position against this unpopular quangoisation. Trustees will then have to acknowledge the trust will never regain public support without there being some elections, and will then vote to trial elections for the four seats councillors have left empty. Trustees have the power to make that change without involving OSCR. This would take us towards what is wanted and needed – a majority of democratically elected trustees. How quickly we get there is down to those political parties in Shetland fielding candidates, the other councillor candidates and particularly down to Shetland’s Liberal Democrats.

    Reply

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