The Scott Trust is a British non-profit organisation which owns Guardian Media Group and thus The Guardian and The Observer as well as various local newspapers, Smooth FM (formerly Jazz FM) and other radio stations, and various other media businesses in the UK.
The Trust was established in 1936 by John Scott, owner of the Manchester Guardian (as it then was) and the Manchester Evening News. After the deaths in quick succession of his father C. P. Scott and brother Edward, and consequent death duties, John Scott wished to prevent future death duties forcing the closure or sale of the newspapers, and to protect the liberal editorial line of the Guardian from interference by future proprietors.
The Trust was dissolved and reformed in 1948, as it was thought that the Trust, under the terms of the original Trust Deed, had become liable to tax due to changes in the law. At this time John Scott also gave up his exclusive right to appoint trustees; the trustees would henceforth appoint new members themselves. Five months after the signing of the new Trust Deed, John Scott died. After three years of legal argument, the Inland Revenue gave up its claim for death duty.
The eight initial trustees of the 1948 Trust were all connected with the Manchester Guardian and Evening News, Ltd., and included four of C. P. Scott's grandsons as well as the then editor of the M.G., A. P. Wadsworth. It has become normal practice for a Guardian journalist to be a member of the trust, though he or she is not considered to be a "representative" of the staff, as this may result in a conflict of interests.
The Trust today
The Trust is responsible for appointing the editor of The Guardian (and those of the group's other main newspapers) but apart from enjoining them to continue the paper's editorial policy on "the same lines and in the same spirit as heretofore", has a policy of not interfering in their decisions. This arrangement tends to give editors a long tenure, and it is probably for this reason that internal appointments have been preferred. GMG's acquisition of The Observer, however, was followed by a quick succession of editors, amid reports of intrigue and accusations of interference.
In 1992, the Trust identified its central objective as being the following:
- To secure the financial and editorial independence of The Guardian in perpetuity: as a quality national newspaper without party affiliation; remaining faithful to liberal tradition; as a profit-seeking enterprise managed in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
The Trust sees its main functions as being the following:
- To secure the Trust's own continuity by renewing its membership and by dealing with threats to its existence;
- To monitor the organisation, financial management and overall strategy of the Group, holding the board accountable for its performance;
- To appoint and 'in extreme circumstances' to dismiss the editors of The Guardian, the Manchester Evening News and The Observer,
- To act as a 'court of appeal' in the event of any dispute between the editorial and managerial sides of the operation.
Besides the GMG businesses, the Scott Trust has a charitable wing, the Guardian Foundation, and operates the Newsroom, an archive and education centre near the Guardian's offices in the Clerkenwell area of London.
The current chair of the Trust is Liz Forgan, a former Director of Programmes at Channel 4 and Managing Director of BBC Radio. She was appointed in November 2003 to fill the vacancy left by the death of Hugo Young. Other trustees include the current Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, Larry Elliott, Will Hutton, Anne Lapping, Paul Myners, Sir Robert Phillis, Geraldine Proudler, and two members of the Scott family.
- Liz Forgan (CHAIR)
- Larry Elliott
- Will Hutton
- Anne Lapping
- Paul Myners
- Geraldine Proudler
- Robert Phillis
- Alan Rusbridger
- Jonathan Scott
- Martin Scott