No hatred here (Jonathan Wills)

Drew Ratter is quoted by your reporter (The Shetland Times, page three, 28th April) as alleging that I have run a “hate-filled campaign” in my attempts to restore democratic control of the Shetland Charitable Trust.

As it happens, this week I have been clearing my desk of council and trust papers, to make space for gardening magazines and my collection of old photographs.

Among the trust papers that I am about to send to safe keeping in the muniment room of Stobister House I see one from nine years ago, dated 8th May 2008, when the independent trustee John Scott and I put forward a motion to the trust (then controlled by the council) outlining three preferred options for its future membership.

These were as follows:

1. Either 24 trustees, comprising seven SIC councillors selected by their fellows, with no
more than one from each ward; and 14 directly elected independent trustees (the chair
to be one of these, with a casting vote); plus the SIC convener ex officio; and another two independent trustees co-opted for their specialist expertise.

2. Or 16 trustees, comprising seven SIC councillors selected by their fellows, with no
more than one from each ward; eight directly elected independent trustees (the chair
to be one of these, with a casting vote); plus the SIC convener ex officio.

3. Or 15 directly elected independent trustees, with no serving SIC councillor eligible
for election as a trustee.

I have just looked carefully through these options (of which I favoured the latter, even then) and I can find no sign of hatred.

Since 2008 I have been trying, persistently but with remarkably little success, to find a compromise that would retain democratic control of more than half of Shetland’s oil money,
while satisfying the charities regulator, the auditors and the tax authorities, who between
them had pointed out the various legal and financial problems caused by elected councillors
being also trustees.

This search for a workable compromise involved speaking to many people, writing papers for
debates and consultations, and engaging in lengthy correspondence, both private and public
(often through the courtesy of your columns).

Apparently, this amounts to a “hate-filled campaign”.

Well, I will admit to intense frustration at the slow pace of the project, and the current hiatus. I do feel dismayed, even angry, at an old comrade turning his back on a basic democratic principle.

There has also sometimes been despair that people who, on the face of it, seemed to be reasonable, intelligent and fair-minded, refused even to consider carefully researched and moderately expressed arguments in favour of a democratic compromise.

There is now exasperation, bordering on contempt, at the arrogance of the self-perpetuating appointocracy ignoring the clearly expressed wishes of the people of Shetland and their elected representatives.

But hatred? No, only an abiding sorrow that a friendship of more than 40 years should be soured over this unavoidable matter of principle.

Da Flea and I have tried patient, logical argument and failed. Perhaps public contempt and ridicule will eventually persuade the trustees to do their duty and phase in the elected majority of trustees that was first mooted all those years ago.

It would go a long way towards restoring the trust’s reputation, which has been battered, not by me, but by the actions of the unelected majority and by those councillor trustees who forgot who had put them there.

Jonathan Wills


Add Your Comment
  • Peter Hamilton

    • April 29th, 2017 17:48

    It is indeed a sad. Trenchant elitism has replaced liberal and democratic values, and many involved have surprised folk who had previously held them in high regard.

    The Scottish government is committed to the principle of power sharing, meaning important decisions should be made with folk not for them, but SCT is a law into itself.

    Perhaps this is a good time for Tavish Scott MSP to say something helpful about this important local issue now the candidates for council elections have had their say…

    • Steven Jarmson

      • May 2nd, 2017 21:59

      If the Scottish government is so committed to power sharing, why are they centralising everything?
      Where’s the plans for the distribution of the crown estate, as the Smith Commission said should be done.
      The Scottish government and SNP are all talk.
      I base my views on actions, not words. The politically correct base their views on words not actions.
      On the point of our local MSP involving himself in this mess, well, that’s for him to decide, but it’s not really part of his remit.

  • Alan Skinner

    • April 29th, 2017 19:25

    I too have seen “no hatred”. Practically every critic of the behaviour of SCT has been at pains to make clear that they do not wish to impugn the reputations of the existing trustees, whom they consider to be well-intentioned people, who are attempting to do their best for the people of Shetland. However, there is general incredulity that the trustees do not understand the need to have a majority of elected trustees, and that trustees should only be “appointed” when they have a clearly demonstrable skill or experience, that is essential for the trust, but is not available in the the elected trustees.
    My nightmare scenario continues to be Viking Energy going into administration, SCT writing off its £10m investment, and the trustees shrugging their shoulders and saying ” Que sera!” There has to be accountability, and OSCR have to recognise that at some stage. I do hope that we do not have a catastrophe before the trustees recognise their limitations, and the indefensible nature of their position.

  • Michael Garriock

    • April 30th, 2017 11:21

    “hate-filled campaign”

    No, Mr. Ratter, it is you who is attempting to play the victim and garner support from the sympathy vote. It won’t wash though, too many people have been pushed to have too much strength of feeling against the patronising arrogance of the trustees who have turned the SCT in to the affront it is today.

    The fact that you think it can wash just further increases the level of patronising arrogance on display, you are your own worst ememy.


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