The Mount Stuart Trust has announced that it is to make five new appointments to the organisation’s board of directors.
A press release on Thursday stated that the additional directors “will become members of the Trust, in keeping with its long-term strategy of introducing a pertinent range of skills and interests to the Trust”.
The move to add five new people to the board of directors, which currently has seven members, follows the launch of a campaign by Land Action Scotland to increase the level of community involvement in the Trust’s work by encouraging the public to apply for membership.
According to Thursday’s announcement, “it is intended that five new appointments to the board of directors will be made in mid-December, including a number from the island’s community”.
Thursday’s news release also stated that “these appointments will help the Trust fulfil its primary objectives in the furtherance of the arts, culture, heritage and science and will emphasise the close links between the Trust and the wider Bute community”.
The move is likely to be seen as a direct response to the Land Action Scotland campaign, which began last month when nearly a hundred applications for membership of the Trust - the vast majority from people not living on Bute - were delivered to the organisation’s registered office in Edinburgh.
Connie Lovel, chief executive of the Mount Stuart Trust, said: “The Trust is primarily in existence to ensure that Mount Stuart, one of the world’s great houses, is preserved for public benefit and everything we do is geared towards delivering that public benefit.
“In line with our long-standing strategy we will be appointing new members to the board of directors who will reflect the additional skills we believe will assist the Trust in achieving its objectives. We welcome representation on the board from those living or working on Bute and who will take on the responsibility of being charity trustees.
“In response to recent requests for membership, application forms have been sent out and will be considered carefully by the board of directors of the Trust.
“It has been disappointing recently to see people confusing the role of the Trust and trying to use it in pursuit of another agenda.
“The directors of the Trust are conscious of the requirement to balance the interests of those who live and work on Trust property and the fulfilling of the wider objectives of the Trust.
“Striking this balance is important and we are receptive to enhancing the range of skills at the Trust’s disposal. “However, the Trust was not established as a large-scale membership organisation which would not be appropriate in these circumstances.
“The Mount Stuart Trust is a charitable company limited by guarantee whose governance and operations have to satisfy the charity regulator.
“The Trust has already advised the regulatory body for charities in Scotland that it has taken steps to update its constitution whilst at the same time widening the membership of the board of directors to include representation of the wider community interest on Bute as well as those who will bring new skills to the organisation.
“We are firmly of the view that the steps we are taking will be of enduring benefit to Bute and the wider community.”
A spokesperson said the Trust’s existing board of directors would be responsible for assessing the applications for membership and for appointing the new board members.
Andy Wightman, the co-ordinator of Land Action Scotland, told The Buteman: “We welcome the news that the Trust are to appoint five new directors of the company - a move that will increase the numbers on the Board from seven to 12.
“We also welcome the fact that some of these appointments will be residents of Bute.
“This does not, however, address the central point of our campaign which is to open up ordinary membership to everyone who lives on Bute and beyond.
“It is wrong that 89 per cent of the island continues to be owned by a charitable company that appears to continue to wish to restrict membership to the tiny number of people who are Board members.
“We would also like the Trust to make public what changes it has made, or proposes to make, to its constitution.”
Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell - one of those who has applied for membership of the Trust - said: “I welcome the decision of the Trust to appoint new directors which is a considerable step forward.
“Of course the Trust needs to show, in its choice of those directors, that it understands the desire for local representation and accountability and any new directors need to make clear their commitment to those principles.
“Openness and transparency should be the hallmarks of the Trust, as it is so important to the lives and livelihoods of the island and its actions are crucial to the future of heritage, culture, tourism and above all farming on Bute.”