IT WILL be nearly four years since a handful of local groups and organisations were told their funding from Shetland Charitable Trust would be phased out entirely as the charity looked to reduce its spending.
As part of plans to curb its annual expenditure to £8.5 million by 2020, the Swan Trust, Shetland Folk Festival, the Shetland Accordion and Fiddle Festival and Shetland Churches Council Trust all face losing vital funding from April onwards.
The trust receives and disburses money paid by the oil industry to Shetland as a compensation for the Sullom Voe Oil Terminal, and its closing reserves last year topped £300 million.
The high value of investments the trust looks after has led to some criticising why it has phased out funding to some local organisations worth only a few thousands of pounds.
So how are things as the four organisations look ahead to starting the next financial year with no charitable trust funding?
The popular Shetland Folk Festival used to enjoy funding of £18,000 a year, with that gradually reducing to £3,000 in 2018/19.
Committee member Louise Johnson said the festival has managed to secure more income from other funding and sponsorship streams.
“We have secured some additional funding from Creative Scotland, have managed to increase our local business support and have had two price increases in some tickets to help cover the funding loss,” she said.
“Donations from visitors to the Statsraad Lehmkuhl concerts have also helped.”
The Swan Trust, which operates the historic Swan sailing ship, was faced with having no funding in place whatsoever when its charitable trust money ran out.
However, secretary Peter Campbell said the organisation has now secured money from the EU-led LEADER fund to employ a marketing and business development manager to promote the Swan and maximise sales income.
It is also looking at ways to secure other external funding as it continues to host trips around Shetland and beyond to countries like Norway and Faroe.
“As it stands, from 1 April we will be totally dependent on the income we generate, and that will be very difficult at present,” Campbell said.
“It has shown that what we knew – the cost of maintaining an old boat is very high, and that we were very much dependent on receiving financial support. What we are trying to do to mitigate that is to boost the number of people utilising the Swan.
“We have also taken steps to reduce expenditure through looking at our budgets and being more efficient. We had people who were in receipt of honoraria who have declined to accept the honoraria, which is of combined benefit to the trust of £5,000. We are working as hard as we can to achieve a financial situation which is sustainable.”
Another music event losing its charitable trust cash is the Shetland Accordion and Fiddle Festival, which had received £12,000 a year as its only source of external funding.By 2018/19 that income had gradually reduced to £3,000 and chairman Peter Leask said that funding was used to cover some travel costs for visiting musicians.
He admitted it is proving “very difficult” to generate sufficient funds without the help of the charitable trust.
“Over the past three years the committee has had to look at other ways of generating sufficient funds to maintain the festival in its present form,” Leask said.
“Various additional fund raising events over the summer months and a grand raffle are now undertaken. The committee appreciates very much the continued generous support it receives from its members and others.
“The committee has also instigated a more active search for potential sponsors from the local business community and this has met with considerable success. Careful control of expenditure on travel and general running costs over the weekend of the festival is also helping.”
Shetland Churches Council Trust, which helps to maintain the isles’ Christian church buildings, has received funding from the trust since 1986.
Back then it received a massive £250,000, but that figure decreased over the years to just over £13,500 in 2018/19 before it reduces to zero from April onwards.
Churches trust chairwoman Val Turner said that the Shetland churches had been lucky enough to have a huge windfall from the charitable trust in the 1980s after decades off little funding and that had resulted in a major programme of repairs.
She said that church infrastructure was in relatively good condition now, but with the black hole left by charitable trust funding, particularly the lack of seed-corn funds, ageing congregations would be challenged to undertake future repairs.
Turner added: “Shetland churches have done extremely well in the past and that has been good for the heritage of Shetland. That’s left a legacy of buildings in reasonably good repair and because of that even though we can spend less money, it’s not a total disaster.
“It will present congregations with more difficulty when, inevitably, there will need to be repairs done in future.”
Shetland Charitable Trust chairman Bobby Hunter has always said the decision – approved by trustees – was made to make the trust sustainable in the long term.