In many cases, electoral law (1) will not apply to the activities of charities in Scotland, but sometimes it will. Electoral law applies to spending on regulated campaign activity (some aimed at the public) during the regulated period.
If your charity spends or plans to spend more than £10,000 on regulated campaign activity in Scotland (or £20,000 in England, or £10,000 in either Wales or Northern Ireland) during the regulated period, your charity must register with the Electoral Commission as a non-party campaigner. Your spending includes your staff costs.
A. Regulated campaign activity means: an activity will be regulated if it is one of the activities listed in the table below and it meets either the purpose test, or the purpose and public tests depending on the activity.
|Purpose Test only
||Purpose and public tests
- press conferences or other media events that your charity organises
- transport in connection with publicising your charity's campaign
- the production or publication of election material (such as leaflets, adverts and websites)
- canvassing and market research (including the use of phone banks)
- public rallies and public events
|Spending includes staff costs for these activities.
B. The purpose test means: it's reasonable to think that the activity is intended to influence voters to vote for or against political parties or categories of candidates; including political parties or categories of candidates who support or do not support particular policies or issues.
C. The public test means: the activities are aimed at, seen, heard by or involves the public, or a section of the public. The public does not include members or committed supporters of charities.
D. The regulated period means: UK Parliamentary general elections usually have a regulated period of 365 days, ending on the day of the election. All other elections have a regulated period of four months, ending on the day of the election.
Your campaign activity to achieve something else, such as raising awareness of an issue, may meet the purpose test even if it does not name a particular party or candidate. For example, if you are campaigning on a policy that is closely and publicly associated with one or more political parties.
You should read the Electoral Commission guidance to find out if the rules apply to your charity.
(1) The rules under the Transparency of Lobbying, Non Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014 started on 19 September 2014. This adds to the existing law the Political Parties, Elections and Referendum Act 2000 ("PPERA").