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.”
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.”