SCVO criticises report on UK cross-border charity work

Proposals by the Commission on Scottish Devolution 'would fix a muddle with a muddle'

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations has criticised proposals from the Commission on Scottish Devolution to create a common definition of ‘charity' and ‘charitable' across the UK.

The report, Serving Scotland Better: Scotland and the United Kingdom in the 21st Century, was compiled by a committee of 15 prominent Scots chaired by Sir Kenneth Calman, chancellor of Glasgow University.  

It says common definitions of the terms ‘charity' and ‘charitable' should be established by the UK Parliament, with the consent of the Scottish Parliament, in order to make it easier for charities to operate throughout the UK. Charities should have to register with only one UK regulator, even if they operate across all three UK jurisdictions, it says. It also suggests that a charity registered in any part of the UK should be able to operate across the whole of the kingdom.

Lucy McTernan, deputy chief executive of the SCVO, admitted that the different jurisdictions within the UK created "minor complications" for cross-border charities. But she argued that the report did not deal with bigger problems such as the way HM Revenue & Customs deals with Scottish charities and the complexity of claiming Gift Aid. "Unfortunately, what the Calman Commission is proposing is a muddle to fix this muddle, rather than making things clearer," she said.

She also said the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 had grown out of extensive public consultation in Scotland and contained more rigorous definitions of concepts such as public benefit than the English Charities Act 2006.

Jane Ryder, chief executive of the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, said the OSCR was committed to working with other UK regulators. "OSCR agrees with the commission that effective regulation is vital to public trust, that this was one of the drivers of Scottish legislation and that detecting and sanctioning malfeasance and fraud are important," she said.

The proposals are on page 166 of the report.

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