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Letters / Reasons for trust compromise

It is not surprising to find such a disparity between the results of the online and postal opinion polls conducted by The Shetland Times last week, on the future composition of the Shetland Charitable Trust (SCT).

Online polls are notoriously unreliable and easy to manipulate; and the postal sample was extremely small; but it does look as if there may be a majority for ending any possibility of elected trustees having a majority. I find that rather hard to believe but life is full of surprises, not all of them pleasant.

There is no way of knowing, of course, because, unfortunately, neither SCT nor the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) intends to conduct a proper survey of public opinion. That is why it is so important for members of the public to write to OSCR and make their views known before it is too late. I urge them to do so, whether they wish to see a self-appointing trust board in perpetuity, or whether they support the all-elected solution proposed by Peter Hamilton and his group.

It is not surprising either that, at this stage, there appears to be so little support for my compromise proposal of eight directly elected trustees and seven appointed. However, the reality is that neither the wholly-undemocratic nor the wholly-democratic solution is likely to gain favour with the trust or with OSCR, which is why I put forward what seemed to me a reasonable and workable compromise.

The trust should indeed steer clear of politics in its daily operations but the matter of who sits on its board and how they are chosen is inherently and inescapably a political question: do the people get to vote for trustees or do they not?

It was therefore more than a little dismaying to see that the Lord Lieutenant of the county, as the impartial chair of the trust, saw fit to intervene in a very political manner by, firstly, forbidding any public discussion of my proposal at the trust meeting, and then by moving and voting for a resolution to force through his extreme and unworkable proposal to retain four councillors on the trust, together with their inevitable conflicts of interest. But that is something for the Lord Lieutenant to discuss with his sovereign.

My personal opinion is that allowing the lieutenancy to become mixed up with local politics risks bringing the monarchy into disrepute but, as we have seen before, my opinion is of no consequence in the counsels of the great and the good.

What matters is not my opinion but that of the people of Shetland, for whose benefit our very successful charitable trust exists. I understand that OSCR will be in Shetland next Tuesday (7 June). I will be away, visiting family on The Big Island Over the Horizon, but I hope anyone with ideas on this important topic will either ask to speak to an OSCR representative here or, in any case, write giving their opinions on the future of the trust. The address is:

David Robb

Chief Executive

Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator

Quadrant House

9 Riverside Drive

Dundee DD1 4NY

To save on a stamp, the email address is: info@oscr.org.uk. The phone number is 01382 220446.

Meanwhile, if anyone would like to discuss my own proposal in more detail, I’d be happy to talk. My number is 07831 217042.

Councillor Jonathan Wills

Lerwick Town Hall

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Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021