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Pre-application information

Published: 26/03/2019
Updated: 24/05/2023


You must know certain information, or have certain documents, before starting your application.

If you do not, you will not be able to proceed.

The different elements are explained below.


The organisation’s name

You must know the proposed name of the charity before starting the application.

You need to think carefully about your name, including any acronyms. A charity cannot have a name that is the same or too similar to an existing one, or is misleading or offensive. Check the Scottish Charity Register to make sure your name is not the same or too similar.

If the name contains certain ‘sensitive words or expressions’ Companies House must check and approve before they can be used in a SCIO/charity name. For example:

  • Scotland or Scottish
  • Trust
  • Foundation
  • Association
  • Society
  • Fund

For more information see our FAQs: SCIO’s on the Index of Company Names.

If we think there is a problem with the name we will contact you to tell you why.


The organisation's legal structure

Charities can take a number of legal forms. The legal form is the structure, which becomes a charity. Some of these structures are ‘unincorporated’ and some are ‘incorporated’.

The main 4 types of charity legal form are:



Unincorporated association

Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO)



Please read our advice on choosing the right legal form in the Thinking of becoming a charity section of our website.

If you are an existing charity or organisation applying to set up a new charity to replace that body, please read our Incorporation Guidance.


The organisation's Principal Contact with OSCR

The principal contact is the person we communicate with when we need to get in touch with your charity.

This person can be a charity trustee, an employee, an accountant or legal adviser.

If your proposed charity has no principal office then the name and address of one of the charity’s trustees can go on the Scottish Charity Register if your application is successful.  


The governing document of the organisation

Once you have decided which legal form is best for your plans, you’ll need the right governing document:

Legal form

Type of governing document

Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO)

SCIO Constitution


Articles of association

Unincorporated association



Trust deed


We recommend you use a model governing document (if appropriate) like the ones on the SCVO website, or from an umbrella body, like Early Years Scotland or the Development Trusts Association Scotland.

If you choose a SCIO as your legal form you will also need to decide which constitution is the most appropriate for your circumstances.


Bodies and charities that are incorporating

You must tell us if this application is to set up a new charity that will replace an existing charity or organisation.  It is important that the trustees and members of the existing charity or organisation are fully aware of their responsibilities going through this process. Please read our Incorporation Guidance for more information.


Information about what the organisation's activities are and how it will operate

You must tell us about the organisation’s purposes and activities. Please see Writing charitable purposes in the Thinking of becoming a charity section of our website.


The intended charity trustees of the organisation

Charity trustees are 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 more detailed information on Charity Trustee duties see Guidance and good practice for Charity Trustees.

You must have at least the minimum number of charity trustees for the charity to have a quorum. For example, if you are applying to be a SCIO you must have a minimum of 3 trustees.


Make sure prospective charity trustees have read and understood the 'Being a Charity in Scotland' guidance

Our Being a charity in Scotland sets out the key points charity trustees need to know about the 2005 Act. It is not a detailed guide to all the requirements of charity law. Throughout the Guide there are links to specific guidance on our website and details of other organisations that can give help and advice to charities.