Connect's Response to Proposed Changes to the Charities Law

The Scottish Government recently consulted on changes the Scottish Charity Register (OSCR) wants to see made to the current Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005. Here are the main points from Connect’s response.

One of the proposed changes was the publication of annual reports and accounts in full for all charities on the Scottish Charity Register, as well as a public register of charity trustees, and publication of trustees who have been removed from their post following an inquiry into misconduct. As we are a company, Connect already has its full accounts published by Companies House so we do not have any objections. But this could create an issue for small charities where they do not have the resources to deal with this.

We felt that any personal information beyond the name and position of an individual should not be published. This might trouble some charities that work in particularly sensitive areas – for example charities that support victims of domestic abuse – so we feel some trustees should be exempt from publication. The names of trustees who have been removed following an inquiry should be published but this should have a time limit and allow former trustees to ask for removal after a defined period, in the same way ‘spent’ convictions are removed from an individual’s record.

Another proposed change was to give OSCR the power to issue positive directions to charities, such as informing charities they need to appoint additional trustees. We feel this is reasonable but failing to follow these directions should not automatically be classed as trustee misconduct. There could be a legitimate reason that the charity has been unable to follow positive direction and we would like to see a support and challenge model of intervention rather than a punitive one.

The consultation also proposed allowing OSCR to remove charities from the Scottish Charity Register that are persistently failing to submit annual reports and accounts and may no longer exist. We believe it is important to define what is meant by ‘persistently failed’.