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Trust unaffected by resignations

THE CHAIRMAN of Shetland Charitable Trust, Drew Ratter, has insisted that the charity has not been weakened by the resignation of two of its members.

On Tuesday, new councillor and former chairman of anti-Viking campaign group Sustainable Shetland, Billy Fox, announced that he had stood down from the trust.

He follows councillor Cecil Smith who walked out of last Thursday’s trust meeting, declaring his resignation as trustees were about to start discussing Viking Energy’s request for a further £6.3 million of funding.

In the past, Mr Smith has always declared a conflict of interest and has never participated in any discussions of the controversial wind farm. He has so far given no public explanation as to why he has now gone one step further and resigned.

Mr Fox said he felt his roles as councillor and trustee were incompatible and added that “the Viking Energy tail has been wagging the Charitable Trust dog and the end result will be to the detriment of its beneficiaries”.

Mr Ratter described Mr Fox and Mr Smith’s reasons to resign as personal and said he was unwilling to comment much further.

“We have gone through an extremely high profile decision and had the best possible advice, and I see this as people’s personal responses to that process.

“The two people who resigned from the trust have done so for their own reasons.

“The trust has two trustees fewer but the proposals for a future trust will be considerably smaller. We still have 22 trustees,” he said.

In his letter of resignation, Mr Fox said: “For a trust which holds substantial funds for the benefit of the entire Shetland public I do not believe that due democratic process has been followed in the pursuance of the Viking Energy investment.

“I believe the legal advice evolved to fit the embarrassing circumstances which Viking Energy had found itself in and, in my opinion, none of it was unequivocal.

“At the end of the day legal advice is just that, the judgement and responsibility lies with the trustee – there is no comeback on the lawyers!

Whether or not the VE development becomes reality, I believe there will likely come a day when questions will be asked on the actions that have taken place over the last few years.

“I for one do not want to be implicated in something which I believe will go down in Shetland’s history as one of its sorriest and most damaging periods.”