Charity law reform: sector needs more transparency and accountability

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A majority of responses to the charity law consultation support changes to increase accountability

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4th July 2019 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

The charity sector in Scotland needs greater transparency and a beefed up regulator – according to the findings of a major Scottish Government survey.

A majority of responses to the Holyrood administration’s charity law consultation support changes to increase accountability.

More than 300 individuals, charities and other organisations responded with their views on proposals to improve the availability of information about a charity’s activities and operations.

The consultation noted support for stronger enforcement powers for the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR), including the ability to automatically disqualify trustees.

In the responses, there was support for increasing transparency, the streamlining of operations and increasing efficiency.

The changes are being suggested to improve trust and confidence in the sector and would update current Scottish charity law, which came into force in 2005.

A working group will now be set up to look at how changes can be brought forward and incorporated.

OSCR chief executive Maureen Mallon responded: ‘‘We would like to acknowledge everyone who responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation. Hundreds of individuals and organisations expressed their views, and we thank everyone who took the time to do so. The high volume of engagement and the overwhelming support for almost all of the proposals shows us that there is an appetite for change.

‘The proposals we submitted, which formed the basis of almost all of the consultation, reflected our experience of working with the 2005 act over the past 13 years and sought to improve the legislation.

“OSCR will continue to press for required changes and charity law reform. As a non-ministerial office, we will work closely with the Scottish Government and our stakeholders on this matter.”

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) was among the organisations which responded to the consultation.

David McNeill, director of development, said: “SCVO welcomes the broad support received for the proposed updates to legislation - there is an important connection between robust charity law and maintaining high levels of public trust and confidence in the collective reputation of the voluntary sector.

“Earlier this year we voiced concerns that this consultation had not gone far enough to deliver a comprehensive review of Scottish charity law, and as such we welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to further conversation around reform and look forward to exploring the options to build on the current proposals.”

Communities secretary Aileen Campbell said: “Charities play a vital role in our society and we need to do all we can to maintain and support public trust and transparency in the third sector.

“We are grateful to everyone who took the time to respond to this consultation. The high level of engagement indicated wide and broad support for change.

“We will fully consider all the points raised, including engaging with those who called for wider changes to the regulations. Collaborative work with the third sector and other key stakeholders will continue as we develop and refine the proposals.”