Scottish appeals tribunal to be axed after hearing just one case

The Scottish Charity Appeals Panel, the Scottish equivalent of the Charity Tribunal, is to be abolished after hearing only one case in two years.

Scottish Parliament: heard the decision last week. Credit: Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body 2008
Scottish Parliament: heard the decision last week. Credit: Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body 2008

John Swinney, finance minister in the Scottish Government, announced the move to MSPs last week as part of a series of cuts to bodies scrutinising public services.

The panel, which was established at the same time as the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator in April 2006, was expected to hear between 50 and 100 cases a year.

Swinney told the Scottish Parliament: "Although it is important for charities to have an accessible and cost-effective way of appealing decisions, the fact that such a small number of appeals has been received suggests that needn't be provided by a specialist stand-alone body."

He said Scap would continue until a consultation on what would replace it had been completed.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations said it was surprised: "The OSCR has completed only two rolling reviews, covering 70 or so charities. It has also been quite conservative and is not pushing the boundaries of what constitutes a charity."

She also lamented the lack of a mechanism for third parties to appeal against decisions, such as the regulator's controversial verdict that Dundee High School provided sufficient public benefit to be classed as a charity (Third Sector Online, 19 July 2007).

Alan Eccles, a solicitor at law firm Maclay Murray & Spens, said the demise of Scap reflected the "sensible and proportionate approach" that trustees, professional advisers and the OSCR were taking.

Last Friday, the Charity Tribunal for England and Wales, which opened in March, held the directions hearing for its first and only case so far, involving a barred trustee from a London Tamil charity (11 June, page 5). The date for the full hearing will be finalised this week. A spokesman said the tribunal still expected to deal with about 50 cases a year once it had "bedded down".

FACT FILE

- Scap was set up in 2006 at a cost of £130,000. Its annual budget in 2008/09 is £80,000

- Only one OSCR decision has gone to appeal during Scap's first two years, out of a possible 8,217

- The low number of appeals means Scap has been staffed on an ad hoc basis by Scottish Government employees.

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