I recently saw a poster in a Lerwick shop window, describing the non-councillor trustees of Shetland Charitable Trust (SCT) as a “cabal”.
This is as inaccurate as it is insulting, and does nothing to help the campaign to secure an elected majority on the trust. The appointed trustees are an essential part of the trust. They work hard for no pay and have demonstrated their good faith and public spirit. They are not some sort of sinister conspiracy, plotting to wrest control of the trust from the public.
The origin of the trust fund was a gift of public money; almost everything it does adds value to public services (for example: our care homes, leisure centres, swimming pools, art galleries, museums, cinema, performing arts and environmental conservation) which, in most other parts of the country are paid for by local councils – or were, when they had the money.
This intrinsic public character of the SCT makes it desirable that the public should elect a majority of the trustees, but certainly does not preclude co-opting other trustees with skills and experience to offer.
If the elected trustees can no longer be councillors, because of changes in charity law and fears about conflicts of interest, then it follows that their replacements should be directly elected. This is the reasonable compromise which I hope my fellow trustees will eventually accept.
The appointed trustees are complementary to the elected trustees, not competitors in a battle for power. If some of the more extreme and outspoken campaigners would recognise this, it would make the current debate less confrontational and, dare I say it, more charitable.
Shetland Charitable Trust vice chairman
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