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Community / New charitable trust chairman outlines priorities

THE NEW chairman of Shetland Charitable Trust says keeping the organisation “running as smoothly as possible” is one of his key priorities.

Andrew Cooper was appointed to the role at a meeting of the trust on Thursday evening.

New Shetland Charitable Trust chairman Andrew Cooper. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

The former GP, who previously held the vice-chair position, was the only person nominated for the post.

He replaces Bobby Hunter, who stepped down recently after taking on the role in 2013.

Margaret Roberts, who joined the trust in in 2018, was appointed vice-chair.

Cooper worked as a GP in Shetland from 1982 until retiring. He became a Shetland Charitable Trust trustee in 2015.

He said one of his priorities in his new position of chairman was to see the organisation, which disburses millions of pounds to local groups and charities, maintain its value.

Trustees were told on Thursday that at the end of the financial year the trust’s investments were valued at £282 million.

“My priorities are to keep the trust running as smoothly as possible to maintain its value and to continue to provide the high level of support for the various bodies that we currently support and the other benefits that we bring to the population of Shetland,” Cooper said.

The charitable trust has received and disbursed money paid by the oil industry to the local community since Sullom Voe Terminal began operating in the 1970s.

With the trust’s investments gaining £30 million in value over 2018/19, questions from the public are continually asked about it why it does not pay more to local groups or fund one-off projects.

The trust disbursed over £7.5 million to the community over 2018/19, but expenditure has reduced in recent years as the organisation looked to tighten its spending.

“We work out how much you can spend without reducing the size of the capital sum, because if reduce the size of the capital sum then you will not be able to earn enough money in another year to keep at the level of spending,” Cooper explained.

“And one of our duties as trustees is to maintain our trust long term so that it’s not just a benefit for the people now but for the people in years and generations to come.”

Cooper’s appointment came just days after a deal was reached which will see SSE provide all future funding to the proposed Viking Energy wind farm.

The charitable trust has invested £10 million in the project so far but without putting in more money the organisation is set to lose influence on the 450 megawatt wind farm.

“We are confident that if the wind farm does go ahead we will see a reasonable return on our investment,” Cooper said.

“There’s been so much uncertainty about whether it actually goes ahead at all, and there’s still a lot of uncertainty about the actual returns if the project goes ahead in things like transmission charges, output of the turbines and so on.

“But we’re confident that we should get what you might describe as a reasonable return.”

The new chairman, however, was not in a position to say what a “reasonable return” could look like.