TRUSTEES of Shetland Charitable Trust have unanimously approved a £1.3 million “safety net” for four of the key organisations it funds in case the hardship caused by Covid-19 endures next year.
The contingency fund for 2021/22 will be available for Shetland Recreational Trust, Shetland Amenity Trust and Shetland Arts in case there is any repeat of the “drastic” drop in trade and visitors the network of leisure centres, Mareel, Shetland Museum & Archives and other attractions have faced since March.
Social enterprise company COPE, which operates retail outlets whose sales have also been hit, is being offered a similar arrangement.
The one-off fund was agreed by trustees at a meeting on Thursday at which the overall budget was set at £12 million, a sizeable increase on the £10 million it is projected to spend in 2020/21.
Trust general manager Ann Black emphasised that the three trusts and COPE would get their normal annual running costs grant in two tranches. Additional sums from the contingency will only be released following the provision of evidence of a drop in trade.
A full breakdown of the money to be dished out to all organisations funded through the £8.3 million main grants scheme is expected to be published next week.
Trust chairman Dr Andrew Cooper said: “The signs are positive that we might soon be able to resume the social and recreational activities denied to all of us during the pandemic.
“We have to hope so for many good reasons, but it’s important that Shetland Charitable Trust is ready to answer the call from the three trusts and COPE if restrictions on social contact continue to prevent us supporting their valued services.”
Dr Cooper said the trust was in a position to provide the safety net “because of the strong position of our investments”.
After suffering losses in the early part of 2020 after Covid-19 struck, trustees heard that external investments leapt in value by £114.5 million in the six months to the end of September – reaching a total value of £411.8 million.
The trust is benefiting from investing in business sectors, such as technology, that have grown during the pandemic.
Some UK investments have not fared so well, with Brexit uncertainty contributing to a stagnant market, followed by concerns about the economy resulting from the Covid-19 crisis.
Trust finance officer Raymond Mainland told trustees that Covid-19 had “skewed the markets considerably” and while it was “a fantastic place to be… these sorts of returns obviously can’t be maintained over the medium term”.
Meanwhile, trustees approved the appointment of Colin Clark, from Gulberwick, and Neil Fraser, of Quarff, to the board of Shetland Heat Energy & Power Ltd (SHEAP), a charitable trust owned company.
Established in 1998, SHEAP operates the Lerwick district heating scheme that heats more than 1,200 homes and buildings, including schools, the hospital, care homes and the Clickimin Leisure Centre.
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