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Charity Community

What do the changes to Scottish charity law mean for your charity?

Author: Kristina Kopic, Head of Charity and Voluntary Sector, ICAEW

Published: 10 Oct 2023

In August, the Charities (Regulation and Administration) (Scotland) Bill received royal assent. The 2023 Act amends the 2005 Act to improve transparency and accountability of charities registered in Scotland, increase the powers of the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) and to aid consistency with certain aspects of charity regulation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The provisions of the Act will be implemented gradually; the first changes will likely come into effect in 2024 and the remainder in 2025.

Here, we will summarise how the changes may impact you if your charity is registered in Scotland.

Why the new Act?

Aged 18 years, the existing Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 needed amendments to respond the changing needs of charities and OSCR alike. While core aspects, such as the ‘charity test’ and the status and duties of trustees remain unchanged by the 2023 Act, the new law intends to enhance these measures, strengthen charity law in Scotland and promote consistency with key aspects of charity regulation elsewhere in the UK.

What changes can Scottish charities expect?

The main changes  are summarised below and more information is available from the Scottish Parliament website.

  • Trustee information: OSCR will be required to publish the names of trustees on their public register and to maintain a database of trustee contact details. However, in exceptional circumstances trustees can request that their name is not published, for example to protect their personal safety.
  • OSCR to publish more information: OSCR will publish the annual accounts (unredacted) for all charities on their public register and website. It will also publish a list of trustees who have been barred from serving as trustees by the courts, and a record of merged charities to assist with the transfer of legacies.
  • OSCR’s inquiry powers will increase: OSCR will be able to investigate organisations which are no longer charities and former charity trustees. In certain circumstances, OSCR will be able to direct charity trustees to take specific action.
  • Disqualification of trustees and senior managers: due to extended rules, trustees and senior managers of charities who have committed certain offences will automatically be disqualified. These offences include being convicted under bribery or proceeds of crime legislation, association with terrorist groups or sexual offences.
  • Removing charities: OSCR will have the power to remove charities from their register if they fail to submit their accounts and don’t respond to communication from the regulator.
  • Connection to Scotland: OSCR will have the power to refuse charitable status to applicants who have no, or very limited, connection to Scotland. If existing charities on OSCR’s register don’t maintain a connection to Scotland, they could also be removed from the register, but this is not intended to affect genuine cross-border charities.

When will the changes take effect?

Trustees of Scottish charities do not need to take immediate action; the timetable for the introduction of the changes will be announced in due course. If you haven’t yet subscribed to OSCR’s newsletters, now may be a good time to do so as OSCR will keep you informed about the implementation process.