Planned reforms to Scottish charity law 'are a missed opportunity'

Responding to a Scottish government consultation, the auditing firm RSM says a broader view is needed to reflect how modern charities operate

Scottish parliament (Photograph: Getty Images)
Scottish parliament (Photograph: Getty Images)

Scottish government plans to reform Scottish charity law are too limited in scope and a "missed opportunity" for meaningful reform, the auditing firm RSM has warned.

A Scottish government consultation, which closes on 1 April, proposes giving the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator powers that would include the ability to remove charities without clear connections to Scotland from the Scottish charity register.

It also proposes forcing Scottish charities to have their annual accounts and reports published in full on the Scottish register and giving the regulator the power to disqualify trustees, as the Charity Commission for England and Wales is able to do.

But in its response to the consultation, RSM says a broader review of Scottish charity law is required to ensure the law is fit for purpose and reflects how modern charities are run.

"Technology is moving quickly and so we therefore encourage the Scottish government to consider how best the legislation could be structured so that it is future-proofed for new and existing technology to meet the needs of Scottish charities while also being updated to meet the current needs identified by OSCR," the response says.

RSM argues that, rather than a focus on detailed legislation, a more principle-based focus should be adopted by Scotland to allow the OSCR to take the lead in guiding the development of charity law in the country.

More effort is also needed to ensure any differences between Scottish and English charity law are minimised, RSM says.

Nick Sladden, head of charities at RSM, said: "Charities across the UK are currently subject to the same accounting framework and the same Statement of Recommended Practice, yet the legislation often means charities have to prepare different accounts for the different regulators, which adds an unnecessary layer of administrative burden.

"We therefore urge the Scottish government to take the opportunity of this update to streamline charity law and regulations around accounting, independent examination and audit to provide much greater consistency across the UK."

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