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Information on the Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO), a new legal form for registered Scottish charities.

The Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) is a new legal form for registered Scottish charities.  The SCIO is a corporate body which is a legal entity able to enter into contracts, employ staff, incur debts, own property, sue and be sued.

There are important differences between being a SCIO and being any other type of body with charitable status in Scotland.  Before applying to become a SCIO, organisations need to be fully aware of the implications that this form of charitable status brings.  Please read our publication, SCIOs: A Guide and our SCIOs: FAQs for further information.

This new form of charitable status has been available from 1 April 2011 to individuals thinking about applying for charitable status for a new organisation and, on a phased basis as follows, to existing charities wishing to change their legal form:

  • existing charitable companies and charitable industrial and provident societies are able to apply to convert to SCIO form as of 1 January 2012
  • existing Scottish charities which are any other type of legal form have been able to apply to change legal form to a SCIO from 1 April 2011.

Managing your SCIO

SCIOs, as with all other types of charitable bodies registered in Scotland, have certain legal requirements to meet, for example reporting to OSCR on an annual basis.

It is important for organisations to understand the operating and reporting requirements for SCIOs.  Further information is available from section 5 of our publication, SCIOs: A Guide, and the Managing your charity section of the website.

Help in setting up your SCIO

While we can advise you on the application process and meeting our requirements, we are unable to help you with setting up your SCIO.  Information and guidance about setting up a SCIO is available from:

Applying for SCIO status

Our How to Apply page provides advice on the SCIO application process.  If you are an existing charity wishing to change legal form to a SCIO, please read our Making changes to your charity page for further information and an application form.

Can a charity registered with the Charity Commission become a SCIO?

Charity trustees of unincorporated charities that are registered with both the Charity Commission and with OSCR (known as 'cross-border charities') may decide that they wish to incorporate by becoming a SCIO.

While this is possible, the charity trustees must be aware that changing the charity's legal form to a SCIO will result in the charity ending its registration with the Charity Commission and being regulated solely by OSCR.  This is because SCIOs are established under Scottish law, and therefore do not fall within the Charity Commission's jurisdiction.

Cross-border charities which wish to become SCIOs should firstly apply to OSCR to incorporate a new SCIO.  If that application is successful and the new SCIO is registered, the charity trustees should then apply to dissolve the unincorporated cross-border charity and transfer its assets to the SCIO.

Once the Charity Commission has received confirmation that the unincorporated charity has been dissolved and the assets have been transferred to the SCIO, it will remove that unincorporated charity from its charity register.

It is also now possible for a charity registered in England and Wales to adopt a similar legal form to that of the SCIO; this is known as the Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO).  A CIO can register with both the Charity Commission and with OSCR as a cross-border charity.

Can a Registered Social Landlord (RSL) become a SCIO?

If your charity is a RSL and you are considering changing legal form to become a SCIO, we advise you to contact the Scottish Housing Regulator in the first instance to discuss this proposal.

Working with SCIOs

Our Working with SCIOs leaflet gives anyone who is working with, or planning to work with, SCIOs more details about this new legal form and how it is regulated.  We explain what is different about SCIOs, the rules they must comply with, and what you need to know if you are considering working with a SCIO.

Applications to dissolve a SCIO

SCIOs must apply to OSCR if they want to dissolve.  You can complete our application forms to dissolve solvent and insolvent SCIOs. Each form contains guidance.

Note that, as part of charity law, OSCR is required to publish these applications.  Current applications can be found here.

Transfer of a SCIO's undertaking

A SCIO may resolve that all its property, rights and liabilities should be transferred to another SCIO, resulting in the dissolution of the transferor SCIO.  SCIO's must apply to OSCR if they want to take this action.  You can download the application form here.