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Reform group favours 12 elected trustees

SCT vice chair Jonathan Wills addressing the meeting with his proposals for reform - Photos: Hans J Marter/ShetNews

A CAMPAIGN pushing for a majority of directly elected trustees to serve on Shetland Charitable Trust appears to gain momentum.

Nine members of the public, including two serving council trustees and one former councillor, attended an hour-long meeting at Islesburgh Community Centre on Saturday that had been organised by Democracy for Shetland Charitable Trust campaigner Peter Hamilton.

During the discussions, held in public, it transpired that a trust consisting of 12 elected and three appointed trustees was the preferred option among participants.

The meeting also felt that Shetland’s elected MSPs, Tavish Scott as the constituency MSP plus the seven Highlands and Islands list MSPs, should show an interest in the issue and get involved in the discussions.

SCT vice chairman Dr Jonathan Wills warned of a “democratic deficit” and proposed to petition the Scottish Parliament for it to pass a bill to allow local authorities to hold funds “in trust” and separate from normal council funds.

This could potentially put the trust funds back into the hands of the council.

The campaign takes issue with the current set-up of the £240 million fund, run by eight appointed and seven council trustees.

Shetland Charitable Trust has meanwhile applied to charities watchdog OSCR to reduce the number council trustees from seven to four.

Councillor Allison Duncan (centre) making a point with Peter Hamilton (right) and John Hunter listening.

However, it now looks as though the trust could end up with no elected trustee on its board at all after Shetland Islands Council decided not to nominate any council trustee after May’s election.

Trustee Allison Duncan said he felt there was a groundswell for change in the community, at least among the people he had spoken to.

“We have to get the Shetland people behind this. There is a groundswell from the people I have spoken to for elected representation and selection coming second,” he said.

“I would stand for election for SCT, I have to put my money where my mouth is,” he added.

Hamilton said the campaign was seeking “genuine democratic reform” of the trust.

“The meeting has shown that there is support for the trust consulting on 12 plus three and there is also the idea that our elected representatives should be pushing for that.”

He said the support for change was much larger than the turnout for Saturday’s meeting suggested.

“There has been a full consultation within Wir Shetland with a membership of 400, and I know that the idea has had support from many other people who have not been here today,” he said.

The meeting also felt that the Shetland Charitable Trust should direct some of its funds more directly to people in need, such as setting up a £1 million innovation fund that: –

  • could help the “mother with three kids who can’t take her bairns swimming once a week”,
  • laptops for pupils on free school meals, and
  • would help young people borrow money at a very low rate to enable them to build a home in Shetland.