Charity test consultation begins

The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator is launching a three-month consultation for its updated guidance on meeting the charity test in Scotland.

Under the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005, Scottish charities have to demonstrate they are for the public benefit and pass the charity test. The OSCR issued guidance on the matter when the test came into effect in April 2006.

The revised Meeting the Charity Test takes in the regulator’s experience over the past 18 months. “The OSCR now has considerable experience of dealing with applications for charitable status, having made decisions in more than 1,600 cases,” the consultation document reads.

The OSCR also carried out a pilot study of the rolling review of the 23,000 charities on its register. The process provided major insights into the application of the charity test, particularly with regards to four issues: ministerial control, the application of charity property for non-charitable purposes, the notion of disbenefit against public benefit and the consideration of unduly restrictive conditions on accessing public benefit.

Alan Eccles, a solicitor at Maclay Murray and Spens, said: “It seems encouraging that the OSCR is seeking to consult widely at this stage on such a crucial part of the Charity Act.” The guidance also includes considerations of developments south of the border in England and Wales “where relevant”, another positive sign according to Eccles.

Organisations wishing to give the OSCR their views can take part in one of the focus groups that will take place in February or send their written comments before 7 April. A summary and analysis of responses will be provided by 30 April; the final guidance will be out in the summer.

The Charity Commission will launch its guidance on public benefit for charities in England and Wales on Wednesday.

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