Scottish regulator set to receive new powers

Charity

The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator will be granted a raft of new “positive powers” from the beginning of April, after legislation was approved by the Scottish parliament. 

The regulator will be given increased inquiry powers, the ability to remove charities that fail to submit accounts from the Scottish charity register and the ability to refuse charitable status to organisations that have “no or a negligible connection with Scotland”.

The OSCR will be able to direct charities to take particular actions as part of its new powers, which were passed into law through last year’s Charities Act.

The regulator said this week: “This will allow us to compel changes and improvements that need to be made in a charity.

“Our current powers only allow us to instruct a charity not to do certain things.

“This positive power will allow us to respond flexibly and appropriately to the wide range of situations we encounter.”

The OSCR will be able to appoint interim trustees, providing a helping hand to struggling charities.

It will also have scope to look into organisations that are no longer charities and individuals who were previously charity trustees.

A key feature of the new legislation will grant the OSCR powers to remove charities that fail to submit accounts or respond to queries.

The regulator added: “While it is disappointing to remove charities from the register, the duty to report to the regulator underpins our regulatory framework in Scotland.

“Without information on the finances and activities of charities, OSCR cannot assure the public and funders that those charities are effectively using charity resources for charitable purposes. 

“This will be even more important in the future when the upcoming duty on OSCR to publish all charity accounts is commenced.”

Once changes are implemented, charities with no connection to Scotland will be refused entry on the register.

The OSCR said it would look at factors including whether the organisation had a “principal office in Scotland, occupies premises or carries out activities [there].”

The regulator said: “Our experience indicates that this will not be an issue for the overwhelming majority of applicants, but the new measure will ensure that we can deal with issues where they arise.”

Other changes include charities no longer having to give OSCR 42 days’ notice of changes that require the regulator’s consent, such as changes to charity name or constitution-related matters.

Two charities with the same name can be entered on the Scottish charity register when there is a merger of charities.

These changes will come into effect on 1 April, with a further set of measures to follow on 1 October.

All new policies from the act will be introduced in summer 2025.

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