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New trust chair confirms cuts to come

THE QUEEN’S representative in Shetland has said there will have to be cuts in spending at the islands’ charitable trust’s after being elected chairman of one of the biggest charities in Scotland.

In a closely fought three-way contest lord lieutenant Bobby Hunter beat former chairman Drew Ratter and marine engineer Jim Smith, who is a prominent member of the Shetland branch of the Federation of Small Businesses.

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Shetland Charitable Trust vice-chair Jonathan Wills narrowly beat Jim Smith to be re-elected to the position.

Thursday saw the first meeting of the £200 million charity since it completed its tortuous transformation into a body not dominated by the local authority for the first time in its 35 year history.

Now eight independent trustees outnumber seven councillors, to protect the organisation from charges of conflict of interest. Previously 22 councillors sat alongside just two independents.

Hunter will serve as chairman until the end of November next year when his initial period of appointment to the trust comes to an end.

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He could be re-appointed for a second term until end of May 2019.

Speaking after the meeting Hunter said bringing the trust’s expenditure into line with its income and making the right decision on investing in the Viking Energy wind farm would be the dominant issues of his chairmanship.

Despite massive cut backs in recent years, the trust still spends around £1 million more than it earns, forcing trustees to look again at all the charitable organisations they fund.

“We have a slight imbalance that needs to be sorted. Unless we can increase the income we have to look at expenditure,” Hunter said.

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“I don’t want to create panic, but there will be some degree of change in expenditure.”

On the Viking investment, Hunter said the consequences of making the wrong decisions would be “catastrophic” for Shetland, without pre-judging what that decision would be.

The lord lieutenant was a prominent member of the Windfarm Supporters Group backing the Viking project and also chairs the Shetland Community Benefit Fund Co-operative (SCBFC), which is looking for around £2 million a year from the wind farm to distribute to community groups in the isles should it go ahead.

However on Thursday Hunter insisted no decision had yet been taken whether to proceed with the investment, which Viking believes will earn the trust around £20 million a year.

“The facts are not available as yet, we don’t know the connecting cost, the capital cost or the arrangements for sale of power. We can listen to estimates but nobody knows if they are factually correct.

“No trustee can say at this moment that we will invest or that we will not invest, because we don’t have the information to make that decision. It is a monumental decision whichever way it goes.

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“I have a view whether Viking is a good or bad idea in terms of whether we should have wind mills or not, but that’s wholly different from whether it is economically right or wrong.

“Everybody knew when they put forward their names for the trust that they had to be involved in making that decision. We can’t shift away from that,” Hunter said.

Only 12 of the 15 new trustees were present at Thursday’s meeting: Malcolm Bell, Ian Napier, Jonathan Wills, Jim Smith, Bobby Hunter, Peter Campbell, Catherine Hughson, Stephen Morgan, Robert Henderson, George Smith, Drew Ratter and Ian Kinniburgh.

Betty Fullerton participated via phone and voted via text message through Ian Kinniburgh who acted as her proxy. Andrea Manson and Keith Massey failed to attend.

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