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Last ditch effort on trust reform

A LAST ditch attempt to retain democratic control of the £200 million Shetland Charitable Trust is being staged next week.

Having lost the vote on reforming the trust in December, councillor Gary Robinson is taking the battle into the local council chamber.

Under pressure from the Scottish charity regulator OSCR, the trust voted to adopt a new structure that will remove councillor control of the organisation that is responsible for dispersing much of Shetland’s oil wealth.

However a core of councillors still oppose the plan to appoint a majority of eight independent trustees, reducing the number of councillors on the board to seven.

Mr Robinson will present a motion to Shetland Islands Council on 8 February calling for the eight independent trustees to be democratically elected.

In his motion he points out that the trust was set up by Act of Parliament to give the local authority powers to distribute its income from the oil industry, and that it had an exemplary record.

He adds that the reforms were only agreed on the casting vote of trust chairman Bill Manson with the support of seven trustees, less than one third of the trust.

He says the current proposal is potentially damaging the partnership between the trust, the local authority and several other independent local trusts.

“If there is a fundamental shift in the control of the trust, effectively making it a private, self-appointed and self-perpetuating trust rather than a publicly elected body, there is a danger that this highly successful partnership may be seriously disrupted.

“If the SCT now ceases to have an elected majority, and thus public accountability, its priorities may change.”