A CHARITY which grants £20 million a year to fighting poverty is being sued by its former CEO, who claims he was a victim of discrimination over his Christian faith.

Kenneth Ferguson, who headed up the Glasgow-based Robertson Trust from 2011 until he was dismissed in March 2020, is seeking nearly £75,000 in damages for alleged unfair dismissal, discrimination and religious harassment.

He claims that the Trust's chair, Shonaig Macpherson, turned against him after a row over a £6500-a-year rental arrangement with Stirling Free Church.

Ms MacPherson allegedly became "incandescent with anger" after learning that the church was hiring the Barracks Conference Centre, a Trust property, for its Sunday services.

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Mr Ferguson is an elder in the Free Church, which opposes same-sex marriage and abortion.

He said: “I was told by two members of my senior management team that Shonaig Macpherson went ‘ballistic’ and was almost unable to speak because she was so angry.

"She kept asking why the Trust had rented to the Stirling Free Church. One colleague told me that Shonaig had said ‘definitely not the Free Church, anyone but the Free Church, they don’t believe in same sex marriage’. They said she was ‘incandescent with anger’."

Stirling Free Church was given notice to quit the property because their use of it “does not comply with Trust policy”.

It is suing the Trust in a separate case, seeking £10,000 damages for breach of contract and a further £50,000 damages for discrimination.

It says it signed a one-year deal with the charity in June 2019 to hold services at The Barracks in Stirling before the arrangement was abruptly cancelled after the venue opened in November.

Mr Ferguson says his relationship with Ms Macpherson, which had previously been very positive, suddenly changed.

He says she became rude towards him, would turn her back to him at meetings and mutter while he was speaking, as well as criticising him in front of other staff.

Mr Ferguson and Stirling Free Church are both being supported in their legal actions by The Christian Institute.

Simon Calvert, the Institute’s deputy director for public affairs, said: “There’s clearly something going on here and we hope these legal actions will bring it to light and secure justice for the Christians who have lost out as a result.”

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The Robertson Trust refutes claims of discrimination and said Mr Ferguson was sacked due to “continued, and documented, underperformance”.

It also claimed he had received a final written warning for failing to declare his links to the church and offering it heavily subsidised rates, something Mr Robertson denies. Gerry McLaughlin, vice chair of the charity’s Board of Trustees, strongly denied any discrimination against Mr Ferguson.

He said the charity regularly worked with faith groups, and in the last six years, had funded over 130 religious organisations with £2.5 million for community projects.

He added: “The claim that The Robertson Trust, or members of its board, would discriminate against anyone based on religion or for any other reason, is completely unfounded.

“The failure to disclose a conflict of interest when applying Trust resources and offering heavily subsidised rates to the Stirling Free Church, of which he is an elder, led to disciplinary action against the then chief executive resulting in a final written warning, but not his dismissal.

“The Robertson Trust’s funding policy clearly states that we do not fund projects and activities which involve the promotion of political or religious beliefs.. This has been the case for decades.”

Mr Ferguson's employment tribunal is set to begin on December 14, with the Church case due to be heard in spring.