Scottish charity wants 'irrelevant' grant cap lifted

Ure Elder Fund for Indigent Widow Ladies launches bill in Scottish Parliament in case 'unlikley to be the last of its kind'

A charity set up by a Scottish philanthropist a century ago has launched a private bill in the Scottish Parliament so that it can abolish a £25 annual cap on the size of grants it can award.

The Ure Elder Fund for Indigent Widow Ladies was set up by an act of Parliament in 1906 after the death of Isabella Elder, the widow of a Glasgow shipyard magnate. She supported women's access to science and higher education.

Further legislation in the Scottish Parliament is required to transfer its assets to a new charity, the Ure Elder Trust - as well as having no cap on grants, it will also have more flexibility to choose who to give them to.

Cynthia McAlpine, chair of the trust, said that although £25 had been a large amount at the beginning of the 20th century, grants of that size no longer allowed the charity to be relevant. "The transfer of the original fund to the new trust will enable us to engage in a more appropriate and substantial manner," she said.

Alan Eccles, a solicitor at Maclay Murray & Spens, who is acting for the trust, said the case was unlikely to be the last of its kind because the formation of the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator in 2005 had impelled charities to review their constitutions and activities.

An ad hoc committee of MSPs would be set up in December to scrutinise the private bill at a cost of £1,250 to the charity, said Eccles. The charity had also been obliged to pay more than £2,000 in taking out four newspaper advertisements to publicise the rearrangements, he added.

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