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Charities Bill published

Improvements and updates to increase transparency and accountability.

Legislation to update and strengthen existing charity law has been published. 

The Charities (Regulation and Administration) Bill aims to increase transparency and accountability and improves the powers of the Office of Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR).

As part of the proposals OSCR will:

  • publish annual accounts for every charity
  • include the names of all charity trustees in the Scottish Charity Register
  • be able to remove charities that fail to provide accounts and don’t respond to OSCR’s communications
  • create a publicly searchable record of removed charity trustees

The legislation will also give OSCR new powers to issue positive directions to a charity to take action, such as managing a conflict of interest, where a risk has been identified by the regulator.

Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said:

“Charities play a vital role in our society, from supporting individuals and communities, to informing policy at a national level.

“Current charity law is now 17 years old, the charity sector has changed significantly in that time and the legislation needs to be updated to reflect that. Charities have told us that they want these changes to help strengthen existing charity law and update their system of regulation.

“In order to maintain public trust and confidence in this important sector and its regulator in the years ahead, we are taking the required steps to increase transparency and to extend OSCR’s enforcement powers.

“Scotland’s charities raise more than £13 billion of income each year and this Bill will give the public further transparency as to how that money is used.”

Anna Fowlie, Chief Executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), said:

“I welcome the introduction of this legislation. Charity regulation is vital to public trust and confidence in the sector, and it needs to be fit for purpose.

“This Bill is an opportunity to modernise regulation and ensure that OSCR has the powers it needs to fulfil its functions as effectively as possible. I also welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to a wider review of charity law in the future.”

Background

The Charities (Regulation and Administration) (Scotland) Bill is a 2022-23 Programme for Government commitment.

Provisions in the Bill include:

  • updating the criteria for the automatic disqualification of charity trustees and extending it to individuals with specific senior management positions in charities
  • removal from the Scottish Charity Register of unresponsive charities that fail to submit statements of account
  • a requirement for all charities in the Scottish Charity Register to have and retain a connection to Scotland
  • a requirement on OSCR to publish the statements of account for all charities in the Scottish Charity Register
  • requirements on OSCR to include charity trustee names in the Scottish Charity Register, to keep an internal schedule of charity trustees’ details and to create a publicly searchable record of charity trustees removed by the courts

The Scottish Government consulted on proposals put forward by OSCR in 2019 and consulted again on a number of specific reforms in 2021 and found a majority of support for the changes.

Scottish charity law: consultation analysis 2019

Strengthening Scottish charity law: analysis of engagement responses 2021

Channel website: http://www.gov.scot/

Original article link: https://www.gov.scot/news/charities-bill-published/

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