OSCR Annual Review 2018-19

This webpage is a summary of some key pieces of work from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019, and draws on information from our Annual Report and Accounts.

Introduction from
the Chair and Chief Executive


Welcome to our 2018-19 Annual Review.

This webpage is a summary of some of key pieces of work from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019, and draws on information from our Annual Report and Accounts.

Scotland is a stronger, more aspirational and ethical country as a result of the quality and scale of its 24,500 charities. The more OSCR can do to support and celebrate high quality in the sector, the more the rest of the country benefits.

We work closely with charities across Scotland providing support and guidance. We will also hold charities to account as a robust and active regulator.

As you can see from the information in this Review and our Annual Report and Accounts, it’s has been a busy year. For example, we’ve introduced a new user-focused online application to become a charity, which has been another step on our digital journey, and our registration and enforcement arms have remained very active.

A big piece of work for us during this period was working with the Scottish Government on a charity law consultation. In our experience as the regulator for over a decade, we identified areas where change could result in more effective regulation. The very positive consultation results showed that there is an appetite for change, so we will continue to work with Scottish Government and other colleagues to make this happen. Ultimately, it will be for Scottish Ministers to decide on changes to our regulatory framework and we are hopeful that this will happen in the next term of the Scottish Parliament. 

There’s still a great deal for us to do. As well as fulfilling our ongoing statutory duties, we want to continue to work hard on preventative measures, being risk-led to maximise our resources whilst increasing the profile of charity regulation in Scotland with the public.

We would like to say a few ‘thank yous’ on behalf of all at OSCR, to David Robb our previous CEO and our former Chair Graham Forbes for their hard work during their tenures. Both helped OSCR on its journey as a progressive and preventative regulator, and this has put us in the strong position we are today. To our key partners and fellow public bodies, we thank you for your engagement and support. And to all of the people who are working as trustees, staff and volunteers in Scottish charities, we recognise that you are the people who make the biggest difference, so thanks for all you do to make Scotland a better place to be.



Lindsay Montgomery CBE            Maureen Mallon
OSCR Board Chair                           OSCR Chief Executive

About Us

We are the independent regulator and registrar for over 24,000 Scottish charities including community groups, religious charities, schools, universities, grant-giving charities and major care providers. Our work as Regulator ultimately supports public confidence in charities and their work.

OSCR's vision is of charities you can trust and that provide public benefit.

Our core functions are:

Registration We are Scotland’s independent registrar of charities. We publish the definitive Scottish Charity Register at www.oscr.org.uk enabling the public to check charitable status and view financial and other information about charities. Over 50,000 searches a month are made on the online register. We consider over 1,000 new charity applications a year and give our consent to around 1,000 existing charities to make changes.
Engagement We undertake outreach work with charity trustees and advisors through our own events and speaking at events organised by others, meeting around 2,000 charity trustees face-to face each year. We publish a wide range of guidance material to assist all charity trustees in meeting legal and accounting requirements.
Enforcement While we strive to be a supportive, preventative regulator, public confidence in charities demands that we take decisive, robust action where required. We handle any concerns in line with our inquiry policy which is designed to protect public confidence.



Our current key business priorities are:


Targeted Regulation Making the best use of our resources to achieve the greatest impact by focusing on key risks in the charity sector and taking action where serious risks are identified within charities.
Improve our support to trustees, volunteers and staff Publishing and promoting guidance through clear and targeted communications, training and events. We will improve our annual return form and processes to ensure that we are gathering information that is in line with our priorities.
Being accessible and agile This includes developing and implementing our Digital Strategy, streamlining our registration and consents processes and simplifying the financial reporting framework for charities.
Improve public awareness of our work and provide services that meet our customers’ needs Our external Communications strategy will aim to boost public confidence in charities and improve our interactions with stakeholders.
Our people This will include the development of practical working groups involving staff across the organisation in redesigning our services and delivery and building a learning environment.
Partnership working with government, public bodies, other regulators and key organisations to maximise our reach Offering our analysis, intelligence and expertise through contributing to existing and emerging events to add value to improve the sector.
Support the outcomes of the Charity Law Consultation We will work with our government colleagues and others in a flexible and responsive way to take this forward.
Developing our next Corporate Strategy We want this to be an ambitious and agile document. We will also review key aspects of our governance and refresh as required.


Who we work with

We work with a range of stakeholders to help deliver our vision. There are formal agreements with many of these organisations to share information, allow more efficient working, and minimise reporting requirements.

Financial Statement

Operating costs 18/19 17/18
Staff costs 2,115,000 2,148,000
Other administration costs 815,000 814,000
Depreciation and amortisation 10,000 23,000
Net operating cost 2,940,000 2,985,000

State of the Nation

Scottish charities come in all shapes and sizes. The work they do is extremely varied and has a huge impact. The graphs in this section give you an idea of the make-up of the charities we regulate.

Shape and size


Purposes of Scottish charities


Trustees, staff and volunteers

A picture of trust...

Public opinion - What will increase trust?

Inquiry files opened

Key Figures


The year at a glance

We opened an inquiry into Tayside NHS Board Endowment Funds (charity number SC011042) on 4 April 2018. This inquiry related to the decision by the Funds’ charity trustees in 2014 to fund projects commenced by Tayside NHS Board and the circumstances around that decision.
We published interim Safeguarding guidance that explained what is meant by safeguarding and highlighted the key steps charity trustees can take to make sure that it is considered in an appropriate way.
We updated our risk framework following a review. As a result, we focused the number of risk areas from ten to six, and we adjusted some of the risk descriptions to better reflect the underlying issues and the regulatory action we might take.
One year after its initial launch, our individual charity registration logo had been downloaded 14,700 times.
We launched a consultation on our Investments guidance. This guidance involved us working with a reference group of investment managers and charity finance directors on investment guidance for charities. It would be released later in the year.
We wrote to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee to update members on our inquiry into the Tayside NHS Board Endowment Funds.
We published our British Sign Language (BSL) plan that sets out the actions we intend to take to promote and support BSL users (including tactile BSL) over the period covering 2018 to 2024.
We launched updated guidance on the law around charity names and what rules need to be followed when making changes to your charity. This guidance updated and simplified previous guidance on how to seek consent to change a charity’s name, purposes and how to wind up or dissolve a charity.
After seven years, Chief Executive David Robb announced he would be leaving the organisation to become Chief Executive of the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS).
Maureen Mallon was appointed as interim Chief Executive to oversee our operations.
The Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Aileen Campbell, announced the appointment of Lindsay Montgomery CBE as Chair of our Board.
We launched the online application to become a charity, replacing the paper-based form with a dynamic and intuitive system that supports applicants.

Scottish Charity Law Consultation

The Scottish Government launched a consultation on 7 January 2019 on changes to charity law in Scotland.

Most of the proposals in the consultation were put forward by OSCR to enhance public trust and confidence in the charity sector by:

  • increasing transparency and accountability
  • providing OSCR with greater enforcement powers
  • streamlining operations and increasing efficiency.

These proposals were included after working closely with the government and other key stakeholders. They reflected our experience of working with the 2005 Act over the past 13 years and sought to improve the legislation.

OSCR promoted the consultation through attending various events and through our communication channels. By the end of the consultation period, 307 responses had been submitted. The responses are available to view here. The vast majority of responses agreed with the proposals to change charity law put forward by OSCR.

Ultimately, the government has decided that more policy development work and stakeholder engagement is required before they can bring forward any legislative changes to implement the proposals. OSCR is working closely with government to drive forward this work. We welcome the Scottish Government’s announcement of a working group on changes to the Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisations (Removal from the Register and Dissolution) Regulations 2011, with a view to bringing forward amendment regulations before the session ends.

OSCR will continue to press for required changes and charity law reform. As a non-ministerial office, we will work closely with the Scottish Government and our stakeholders on this matter.

Online application to become a charity

OSCR receives 1,100 applications for charitable status every year. Since we began operating in 2006 these applications have been paper-based.

In March of 2019, we launched an online application to become a charity.

This new application form is designed to:

  • be more user friendly, with guidance to help applicants provide the right information to help us make our decision on charitable status quickly and easily
  • be more ‘intelligent’ and tailored so that applicants only have to look at questions relevant to them
  • minimise follow-up and further questions from OSCR to applicants
  • allow applicants to supply all supporting documents online.

This launch was the culmination of a user-led project with developers from Horisk. In the initial stages of its development, we worked with a Digital Transformation team to establish an approach to this project would best meet our needs. We reached out to organisations and advisors to test this online process in its earlier stages and their feedback has been vital in helping us develop the application form. To support users after launch, we supplied guidance and changed our Becoming a charity webpages to make sure applicants had the correct information prior to applying.

The form has allowed us to streamline some of our registration processes and reduce the amount of queries we have around registration.

Risk assessment

We have been thinking about how we look at the information we have about charities to help us decide where to target our activities to make sure we address the key risks in our Risk Framework. In the latter part of 2018-2019 we looked at our data about charities and our activity and talked to other regulators about how they assess risk.

With help from consultants we put together a plan for piloting a new approach which will help our staff bring together all the information we have on a charity, assess it in a consistent way looking at all aspects of regulatory risk and decide as early as possible what action is needed. This helped us begin 2019-2020 with a pilot exercise using the new approach on significant areas of our casework, and this will continue to be a key focus for OSCR.

Highlight on Safeguarding

Safeguarding as an issue for us came to the fore just before the start of this financial year. In response to the heightened media coverage and resulting public concern, we sought to do what we could to support charity trustees to ensure that they had good governance in place around safeguarding.

Our first response was to write to all of our registered charities asking them to consider their safeguarding policy and reminding them that safeguarding issues should be reported to us through our notifiable events regime.

We brought forward our guidance on safeguarding, quickly publishing interim guidance in the first instance but making sure that we had left the possibility of honing and improving as we learnt more through our relationships with others during the year. Towards the end of the year, we were able to publish the final version of the guidance, which has been very positively received.

But perhaps the most important piece of work during the year was our work with others to try and make sure that we were giving charities across Scotland the best possible chance to build best practice in safeguarding for their organisations. We started this work by hosting a round table in cooperation with SCVO, Scottish Government and Scotland’s International Development Alliance. The event was designed to help us understand the key issues for the sector in Scotland and to start working on how best to build a programme of work. Since then we have worked closely with these and many other organisations in Scotland and beyond to support an upskilling of the sector in safeguarding.

In part this has been about collaboration and cooperation, trying to make sure that there is a joined up approach to safeguarding of charities and making sure that charities are increasingly able to access the appropriate resources and support. However, we have also played a directly practical role. We have presented to a large number of groups and run workshops on the topic both in our own Meet the Charity Regulator events, and at for other organisations.

This work will continue into next year as we build on this foundation to support charities as they build good practice in safeguarding for their organisations.

Meeting trustees around the country

Over the past few years, we have been on a journey around Scotland, delivering our Meeting the Charity Regulator events in different towns and cities every year. It is definitely one our highlights of our work. It has been fantastic opportunity to meet trustees and those working with and supporting charities. Taking it around the country has made it more accessible for many organisations and over time we have seen the balance shifting towards increasing number of trustees taking up the offer of participation.

In part, we are there to update the audience on what has been happening with the regulator. Aside from the more basic updates, we also cover key themes that have emerged as being important for the charity sector. For instance, this past year, we concentrated on safeguarding, fraud, cybercrime and trustee duties.

In addition, we collaborate with key partners such as the local infrastructure organisations, SCVO, the Institute of Fundraising, the Scottish Fundraising Standards Panel, Volunteer Scotland, Disclosure Scotland, Mediation Scotland and so on in order that participants cannot only ask us questions, but can have direct access to other organisations.

However, us sharing information and answering questions is only part of what makes these events more powerful. It is one of the best ways we have of hearing directly from trustees about their work, their hopes, their challenges and fears. Indeed, the discussions we have at the events are an essential learning for us as we plan work. It not only informs upcoming events, but it is also taken into account as we plan our engagement and communications work across the year.

Thanks to everyone who came to our events over the past year. We had a great time in Perth, Peterhead, Stirling, Edinburgh, Motherwell and Oban. If you did not get a chance to come along, a video of the event is available on our YouTube channel. The video is subtitled and there is also a BSL version available.

The year ahead


We will continue to make internal changes that will make us a more risk-based regulator.


The year ahead


Our inquiry policy, the document that sets out how we will respond to concerns about charities, will be updated.


The year ahead


We will continue to go around the country as we hold 6 ‘Meet the Regulator’ events.


The year ahead


Our website will be upgraded to help new charity trustees find information more easily.


The year ahead

Outcomes of significant interest from our inquiry work will be published on our website
to spread lessons learned and help prevent further problems.


The year ahead


We will continue to look at how digital systems can improve our efficiency and our services to charities and the public.


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