Scottish government considering independent review of charity regulation, ministers say

Work on the review is underway and ‘all options’ are being considered, the Scottish Parliament hears

(Photograph: Michael Wolchover/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images)

The Scottish government has said it is considering making its review of charity regulation independent, in response to calls from the voluntary sector.

The government pledged in late 2022 that it would undertake a review of charity regulation in Scotland after the Charities (Regulation and Administration) (Scotland) Act passed, which received royal assent last summer. But the government is yet to specify what form this review would take.

In Holyrood, ministers said work on the review was underway and that the government was considering making this review an independent one.

A parliamentary question raised by Paul O’ Kane, the Scottish Labour MSP for West Scotland, asked whether the review of charity regulation would be conducted independently from the Scottish government. 

Shirley-Anne Somerville, the cabinet secretary for communities, social security and equalities of Scotland, responded in the chamber. 

She said that while no decisions had been taken on how the review would be conducted, “all options, including an independent review, will be considered”.

Somerville said the approach taken would “depend on the agreed scope, timescales and outcomes”.

She added: “My officials are currently working on proposals for engaging stakeholders which will ensure that all interested parties have the opportunity to contribute their views on the purpose and scope of the review. I will update parliament on our plans in due course.”

Kirsten Hogg, head of policy and research at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, said it was encouraging to hear that the prospect of an independent review was on the table.

She said: “The need for an independent review was extensively discussed during the legislative process for the Charities (Administration & Regulation) (Scotland) Bill, raised by stakeholders across and beyond the voluntary sector as well as SCVO.”

Hogg added that the importance of the independent nature of the review had since been raised in the Scottish Parliament chamber and in the Social Justice & Social Security Committee’s report on the bill. 

She said: “There is a feeling within Scotland’s voluntary sector that, if this review is to be as effective and as beneficial as hoped, any recommendations that come from it must be independently set and not crafted by the government.

The voluntary sector has waited long enough to see the thorough, comprehensive and holistic review of regulation that is required, and we would now expect the Scottish government to enter future discussions on the scope of that review with a specific focus on the need for its independence and how this may look in practice.”

The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator declined to comment. 

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