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Regulator approves charitable trust reform

SHETLAND Charitable Trust can press ahead with changes to the way it is being run after the Scottish charity regulator approved its reform plans.

OSCR said the re-organisation of the £200 million charity would ensure it is run more effectively and would also help to regain public trust.

In 2008, the regulator had instructed the charitable trust to come up with reform proposals after declaring that trustees had “irreconcilable conflicts of interest” in their dual role as councillors and trustees.

Now, four years later, the regulator approved the trust’s own reform programme which was submitted in December of last year.

The reorganisation proposals attracted 68 objections from the Shetland public.

The new trust will be made up of seven councillors and eight appointed members, who will be recommended by a selection panel.

OSCR also advised that six trustees would be sufficient for a meeting to go ahead. Three of those present must be appointed trustees.

OSCR’s head of charity services, Martin Tyson, said: “We have carefully examined the proposal made by the Shetland Charitable Trust as well as the various objections we received.

“As regulator our only consideration must be whether the proposal, if implemented, would enable the charity to be administered more effectively. Having considered the proposal and all the relevant issues, our view is that this requirement is met.

“We have therefore written to the trustees to confirm our approval, reiterate the key points that led to our decision, and set out the next steps to be taken to implement the reorganisation.

“It is now for the trustees to put into practice the scheme that they have proposed. We would look to see them do so as quickly as possible, in line with the undertakings the trust gave to us in December last year to amend its constitution.”

The regulator has also taken the opportunity to comment on specific issues raised by objectors to the proposed scheme.

One of the most widely raised objections was about the selection of trustees, with many stating that non-councillor trustees should be elected.

“OSCR’s view is that the decision it had to make was either to give or withhold its approval for the proposal put forward by the trust, based on whether that particular proposal would allow the trust to be run more effectively, rather than to take a view on any alternative schemes proposed,” the charity said.

Objectors also expressed concern about the minimum number of trustees required to form a quorum, feeling that this was too low.

OSCR responded: “In considering this, OSCR took into account its general experience, that in a trustee body of 15 a quorum of six is not unusual, and that while there are risks from having a too small a quorum requirement, having too large a quorum requirement may make it more difficult to hold valid meetings and run a charity effectively.”