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SIC narrowly avoids reforming trust yet again

AN ATTEMPT to further complicate the drawn out reform of the £200 million Shetland Charitable Trust on Wednesday was defeated when local councillors agreed to appoint seven members to its board.

A year ago the trust won charity regulator OSCR’s approval for a new structure removing Shetland Islands Council control to avoid conflicts of interest, with seven councillors outnumbered by eight independently appointed trustees.

On Wednesday council leader Gary Robinson took some members by surprise by proposing just three councillors be appointed to separate the two organisations as much as possible.

“As councillors we have enough to be going on with ourselves without seeking to have such a high level of involvement in an external organisation,” Robinson said.

The move provoked a long debate about the implications of such a move, once again raising the whole question of conflict of interest.

Michael Stout insisted that as they were sitting as councillors they should make a decision that was in the interest of the local authority alone.

However Jonathan Wills, who is the trust’s vice chairman and fought vigorously against the current plan for reform, said that they were in danger of putting at risk years of effort.

“This will imperil the whole process of reform,” he said.

“If we derail the process at this stage we will cause chaos. It will mean going back to OSCR and starting all over again.”

Wills added that they should wait three years for an independent review of the trust’s new structure before making any changes, saying he hoped it would remove councillor involvement altogether.

He won the support of 13 members with nine voting against.

Ten councillors were nominated to sit on the trust. The seven chosen by ballot were Malcolm Bell (21 votes), Jonathan Wills (16), Drew Ratter (13), George Smith (13), Peter Campbell (13), Andrea Manson (13) and Robert Henderson (11).