News In Focus
Charity appeal panel closure plan "premature", says firm
Plans to abolish the Scottish Charity Appeal Panel (SCAP) are premature, as it will make it more difficult and expensive to challenge decisions by OSCR, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, a law firm has warned.
McGrigors says the plans will not simplify the public sector and improve services as intended.
Finance Minister John Swinney announced his decision to abolish the SCAP on 6 November. His reasoning was that only a small number of appeals had been received, suggesting that SCAP wasn’t needed.
Despite the small number of cases, McGrigors says this is because OSCR has only recently released its first set of decisions under its rolling review process and therefore there hasn’t been enough of an opportunity or need for charities to make any appeals.
With OSCR’s recent decision that four of Scotland's leading independent schools may lose their charitable status, the firm believes that there has never been a greater need for an accessible, independent and specialist appeal body to be available to review such decisions.
Alan Boyd, head of McGrigors charities group said: “The decision to axe SCAP seems premature. OSCR's rolling review is only just getting underway. OSCR has clearly flexed its muscles with the recent decisions regarding the independent schools.
“Other such controversial decisions in the future are likely and it is essential that an affordable, quick and accessible appeals forum is available should a charity wish to challenge OSCR's decision.”
If SCAP were abolished and nothing put in its place, the only route for a charity wishing to challenge an OSCR decision would be to raise judicial review proceedings in the Court of Session.
Mr Boyd added: "One of the main facets of OSCR's test for charitable status is that the charity provides a public benefit. Yet how can it possibly benefit the public to have charities spending substantial amounts of their charitable funds running expensive and drawn out litigation through the Court of Session? We would urge all Scottish charities to use the minister's consultation to make their concerns known.”