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SIC - Free Tyre Check - 22 Nov 2019

Wir Shetland latest to oppose SCT reforms

AN EMPHATIC majority of Wir Shetland’s membership is in favour of directly elected trustees on the board of Shetland Charitable Trust, the campaign group says.

Wir Shetland, currently under the temporary chairmanship of James Titcomb following the resignation of founder John Tulloch, said 84 per cent wanted to see an all-elected board and a further 12.5 per cent wanted a majority of elected trustees.

That goes further than the compromise proposal being tabled by trust vice chairman Jonathan Wills at a meeting on Thursday morning. He is suggesting eight directly elected trustees sit alongside seven appointed trustees.  

Wir Shetland is the latest of a host of individuals and groups – including SIC leader Gary Robinson, other councillors, community councillors and Scottish election candidates – that have lined up to criticise governance reform proposals being tabled at tomorrow’s meeting.

A report from the Institute of Directors (IoD) suggests reducing the number of councillor-trustees from seven to four and having 11 appointed trustees, with no directly elected trustees.

But there have been few voices in favour of such a model outwith the trust – with many criticising the undemocratic nature of what is being proposed for an organisation that helps fund what are in effect public services in the islands.

While the IoD did interview trustees and other individuals locally, there is also anger that the wider Shetland community has not been consulted on changes to the governance of a trust established to act in islanders’ interest.

A Wir Shetland spokesman said the organisation’s agenda of returning control over island affairs to the people who live here “directly carries over to the current debate on the future of SCT”.

“A poll of our members shows the majority believe that the trust should be managed by a board consisting of directly elected members,” he said.

“The proposal by Jonathan Wills, while a step in the right direction, does not go far enough as it allows control of the trust to pass to a majority of appointed trustees under certain circumstances.”

Wir Shetland is calling on its members and other isles residents to support Peter Hamilton’s newly-formed pressure group Democracy for Shetland’s Charitable Trust.

“It is vital that the current board members of SCT understand the strength of feeling the Shetland public have on this issue,” the spokesman said. “Wir Shetland fears that if the trust falls into the hands of a majority appointed board they will be out of democratic control forever more.

“Only a change in the law will be able to return the trust to democratic control.”

The IoD report said a “significant majority” of those interviewed favoured selecting, not electing, trustees and pointed out that only one other trust in Scotland fills its board via elections.

Wills acknowledges that he is unlikely to be able to sway trustees’ minds at Thursday’s meeting, but he believes charities regulator OSCR will have to intervene if – as expected – trustees wave the proposals through.

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