Shetland Islands Council has acquired the property organisation, which owns buildings including the so-called “White House”, for around £17.5 million.
On Tuesday the SIC and Shetland Chairtable Trust agreed a deal which will see the local authority take control of Shetland Leasing and Property Developments (Slap).
Slap, formerly the property arm of the charitable trust, owns several properties for which the SIC has been paying rent. These include Shetland College and the NAFC Marine Centre as well as the council’s troubled headquarters at 8 North Ness.
The latter was controversially evacuated in September 2016 amid now debunked fears its floors were at risk of collapse. The council continued to pay rent to Slap while the building stood empty, a Freedom of Information request by this newspaper revealed.
Earlier this year it was revealed that a secretive behind closed doors meeting of the full council had discussed a potential takeover of Slap. It was noted at the time that this could lead to long-term savings in rent for the authority.
A further benefit could come in the form of Slap’s annual profits. According to Companies House the organisation made around £1.6 million in the 2016-17 financial year.
SIC convener Malcolm Bell said: “I’m delighted to see this deal reach its conclusion. It has involved a lot of work for officers on both sides over the past months, and the benefits are significant for the people of Shetland.
“The council contends every year with reductions in its government grant, and therefore has to maximise the return from its external investments to maintain the quality of its services. This is a rare opportunity to make a local investment which has the potential to give us significant returns for many years to come.”
Charitable trust chairman Bobby Hunter called the deal “mutually beneficial”. Under the deal the trust will receive an additional £3.4 million in Gift Aid from Slap.
Other assets in Slap’s property portfolio – worth around £20 million – include Scatsta Airport and Solar Hus.