Progressive, Proportionate and Preventative

Celebrating 10 Years of OSCR

Glossary of Terms

The terminology used by OSCR when applying for charitable status

For a full explanation of the terms we use, please click on the links below:

These are the charitable purposes recognised in section 7(2) of the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005.

a) The prevention or relief of poverty.
b) The advancement of education.
c) The advancement of religion.
d) The advancement of health.
e) The saving of lives.
f) The advancement of citizenship or community development (including rural or urban regeneration).
g) The advancement of the arts, heritage, culture or science.
h) The advancement of public participation in sport.
i) The provision of recreational facilities, or the organisation of recreational activities with the object of improving the conditions of life for the persons for whom the facilities or activities are primarily intended.
j) The advancement of human rights, conflict resolution or reconciliation.
k) The promotion of religious or racial harmony.
l) The promotion of equality and diversity.
m) The advancement of environmental protection or improvement.
n) The relief of those in need by reason of age, ill-health, disability, financial hardship or other disadvantage.
o) The advancement of animal welfare.
p) Any other purpose that may reasonably be regarded as analogous to any of the preceding purposes.

The charity test is the legal set of requirements that an organisation must pass to become a charity and be entered in the Scottish Charity Register. The charity test is in two main parts:

  1. an organisation has to show that it has only charitable purposes and
  2. that it provides public benefit in achieving those purposes

Public benefit is what your organisation must provide to satisfy the Charity Test. We will need to be satisfied that your organisation will make a positive difference for the public.

The charity test also states that an organisation cannot become a charity, or continue to be one, if:

  • it is set up to be or advance a political party
  • its governing document allows it to use its assets (cash or property) for non charitable purposes
  • its governing document allows Scottish Ministers to direct or control its activities.

For further details see Meeting the Charity Test.

To be entered onto the Scottish Charity Register and to have charitable status in Scotland, a body must be able to demonstrate that its activities provide or (if it is a body in the process of being established) are intended to provide identifiable benefit to the public or a section of the public. In looking at whether public benefit is provided we must take into account:

  • how any private benefit is balanced against benefit to the public
  • how any disbenefit to the public is balanced against benefit to the public
  • whether there are any unduly restrictive conditions on obtaining the benefit the body provides.

For further details see Meeting the Charity Test.

This is the document which sets out a charity's purposes, how its income can be spent, how its charity trustees are appointed and how the charity will operate. All bodies applying for charitable status need to submit a copy of their constitution.

The type of constitution or governing document a charity has will depend on its legal structure.

  • Unincorporated associations and Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) will generally have a constitution.
  • Trusts will have a trust deed.
  • Charities formed as companies (usually limited by guarantee) will have a memorandum and articles of association.

Sometimes a charity's constitution may be a charter or an Act of Parliament, or some other type of document or combination of documents.

The people who are in general management and control of the charity and usually those who are part of its governing body. Depending on the charity's legal structure they may also be known as directors, office holders or committee members.

For further details see our Trustee Duties page.

When choosing a name you should be careful that it is not 'objectionable' under charity law. Generally this means that it should not:

  1. Be the same as or too similar to an existing charity.
  2. Mislead the public about what your organisation is going to be doing.
  3. Give the impression that you are connected with another organisation (unless you are connected with them).
  4. Be offensive.

By representation we mean any public reference to the organisation being a charity, made by the organisation itself or by a person acting on behalf of the organisation.  The representation may be either written or verbal.  It could be made to either an individual, a group of individuals or to an external organisation.  A letter to another organisation (for example a funding application or a request for rates relief) in which the organisation makes reference to being a charity would be considered to be representing itself as a charity.  An internal reference, for example in a letter sent only to the members of the organisation, lacks a public element and would not be treated as being a representation.  The representation need not be made in Scotland.

By 'property' we mean all property and assets (money and other assets) belonging to a charity, including heritable property (such as land and buildings and rights attached to it).