The chairwoman of Scotland’s largest grant-making trust has been accused of shaming and humiliating the organisation’s CEO over his link to a church with biblical views on marriage.
Continuing proceedings from December, an employment tribunal is considering the case of Kenneth Ferguson, dismissed from the Robertson Trust in March 2020 after Chairwoman Shonaig Macpherson objected to Stirling Free Church, where he is an elder, renting Trust premises.
She reportedly became “incandescent with anger” when she learned of the agreement in November 2019, raising the matter of the church’s stance on same-sex marriage. The rental agreement was terminated, and the Trust soon began disciplinary proceedings against Ferguson, despite him having recused himself from negotiations about the rental.
Macpherson was accused of shunning Ferguson, with the Trust’s former Head of Social Investment Katie Campbell giving evidence during the hearing on Monday.
She recalled that, during a meeting in January, the Chairwoman even sat with her back to him and “muttered whenever he chose to speak”, noting “other people commented on it”.
Campbell also said Macpherson shook her head and muttered “no, no, no” when Mr Ferguson attempted to address those at the meeting.
‘On the warpath’
When the hearing began in December last year, the tribunal heard evidence from Campbell that Macpherson was “clearly very angry” and that her “voice was audibly shaking” shortly after hearing of the arrangement. In an email Campbell warned Ferguson that the chairwoman was “on the warpath”.
In an email to another employee, she said Macpherson was “appalled at the idea of the Free Church using a trust space”.
Another of Ferguson’s colleagues emailed him to say: “Please take care on this one. Am worried for you. We know how she can be and she really sounded angry.”
The Trust has been accused of conducting a “sham” disciplinary hearing before dismissing its CEO.
Thomas Cordrey, representing Ferguson, pointed out that one of the charity’s trustees had noted that he didn’t think Kenneth could continue, while another said there would be “one outcome”.
He also highlighted that, prior to any disciplinary hearing, Macpherson told a trustee Mr Ferguson’s action “equals gross misconduct leading to dismissal”.
Addressing Macpherson, Cordrey said: “It was all a sham, wasn’t it? You were just ticking boxes to get you to the position you needed to be in to get rid of Mr Ferguson.”
The case has now concluded and a ruling will be made in due course.