Money has remained unspent for a decade
OSCR has gone to Scotland’s highest court to prevent a charity from spending a large sum of cash after complaints were made about its governance.
Wick Academy Development Trust has around £140,000 in the bank but the charity regulator has moved to block it from spending any of it at the Court of Session.
The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator first opened an inquiry into the charity in September 2010, having received concerns as to whether it was providing public benefit and about its failure to make use of its funds after holding a local lottery.
In the period since then OSCR has engaged repeatedly with the charity to try to ensure that it used its funds to further its charitable purposes - but the large sum of money has remained unspent.
The aim was to use the cash to build a sports centre in Wick. These plans have never seen the light of day and has led to years of bickering and arguments among trustees, stakeholders and even local politicians.
In its report OSCR states: “Following our inquiries, we have concluded that there is no realistic prospect of activities being undertaken by the charity trustees in furtherance of the Charity’s objects. The Charity is not providing public benefit and is therefore at risk of removal from the Scottish Charity Register.
“Should the Charity be removed from the Register the charity trustees would remain under an obligation to apply the Charity's assets in accordance with its purposes.
“We have no confidence that the charity trustees would comply with this requirement. In our view it is necessary for a Judicial Factor to be appointed to manage the affairs of the Charity, and we will be applying to the Court of Session to make such an appointment.”
The move has been welcomed by campaigners who have been calling for the £140,000-plus to be released and spent for the benefit of the local community.
In 2015 a petition was mounted on Change.org calling for the fund to be more accountable to the public, from whom it raised the cash.
Even then the peititioners were stating "it is now five years since questions began being asked and we are no closer to receiving answers."
But WADF chairman Jacky Gunn pledged to fight the ruling by the Office for the Scottish Charity Regulator.
Even though its last fundraising activity was in 2009, Gunn insists that the plan to create a community sports complex remains live and fears the legal intervention will lead to money being “squandered.”
He said: “We want to stay in control of the fund. If it gets taken over, it will get destroyed and money will be squandered on legal fees and administration.”
Wick businessman Colin Stewart has been among those calling for WADF to be wound up.
He said: “What OSCR is saying is that the trustees can no longer be trusted to fulfil the objectives of the charity.
“This money is doing do good to anybody just sitting in a bank.”