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Questions raised over trust quorum

SHETLAND Charitable Trust has insisted that enough trustees were present at Wednesday’s meeting to make a decision on further funding for the Viking Energy wind farm project.

Doubts remain over whether the decision to release a further £420,000 was taken by 11 of the 23 trustees, or the minimum of 12 needed for a quorum.

Trust managers said on Thursday that 12 members had been present, but Frank Robertson has categorically stated that he did not take part in the meeting, despite remaining in his usual seat in the council chamber.

The chairman of Shetland Islands Council’s planning board presence became critical when independent trustee John Scott walked out of the meeting after warning his fellow trustees that they were about to ignore their own legal advice on how to handle conflicts of interest.

At this point almost everybody in the council chamber, including around 25 members of the public, thought the meeting was over because the number trustees had dropped to 11.

Trust vice chairman Jim Henry, who chaired Wednesday’s meeting, admitted that he thought likewise until he was told by his officials that there were still 12 trustees present and the meeting could continue.

However later Mr Robertson was adamant that he did not take part in the meeting at any time.

He said he was unable to participate because as chairman of the council’s planning board he had already voted on the project.

Recalling what was said after Mr Scott had left, Mr Robertson said: “They (the chairman and chief official) asked if I was abstaining, and I said ‘I still am abstaining’.

“I was abstaining on all matters dealing with the meeting, I did not take part in the debate, voting or any part of the meeting. But if they were counting heads, then I was still sitting there.

“My position did not change, but probably I should have sat back among the observers,” he said.

In a statement, the trust’s general manager Ann Black said on Thursday: “In accordance with Section IV paragraph 10.5 of the Trust’s Administrative Regulations, 12 trustees were present, therefore the meeting was quorate”.

John Scott said on Thursday that his action had not been a deliberate attempt to make the meeting inquorate.

His concerns, he said, were more fundamental and could only be tackled by reforming the set up of the trust.

“My concern was that the charitable trust was acting unlawfully, because we had legal advice that there is an inherent conflict of interest for the councillors who are dealing with both the planning application of the wind farm and investments in the wind farm.

“I felt that in the interests of the charitable trust I should leave the meeting,” he said.