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Viking meeting could have been “misconduct”

Scottish charity regulator OSCR is still inquiring into last week’s decision to hold a snap meeting of Shetland Charitable Trust into financing the Viking Energy wind farm development.

OSCR ordered no decisions be taken about investing a further £6.3 million into the venture so close to the local government election, which will substantially change the make up of the trust’s board.

In a three page report published on its website, the regulator warned that making a decision could have amounted to “misconduct” by the trustees.

The report said OSCR could not see how trustees were acting with due care and diligence in the best interest of the charity by taking such a major decision days before a new board was elected.

“This particular project, and any investment in it by the trust, has been the subject of divided opinion not only between the current trustees but also in the community served by the charity,” the report said.

“In this context, the trustees require to be particularly careful to make investment decisions with due care and diligence and with all the relevant independent advice that is appropriate – both legal and financial.”

It added: “There appears to be no obligation or other good reason to make a decision binding on the future trustees so soon before a major change to the trustee body.

“To do so, when it is clear from the earlier attempts to hold the meeting that this is a divisive issue could be a breach of trustee duties amounting to misconduct. “

OSCR said it would look further into these events as part of its ongoing inquiries into the trust’s governance arrangements, which started in July 2010 and were triggered by concern of “systemic and specific conflicts of interest”.

The regulator’s direction to refrain from making a binding decision on funding for Viking Energy is valid until 5 May. It does not prevent the trust from holding any meeting to discuss the investment.

The full report can be found at: www.oscr.org.uk/media/317655/2012-04-30_section_33_report_-_shetland_charitable_trust.pdf