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Information for Elected Members

This page provides information to Councillors, MSPs and MPs about the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) and the charity sector in Scotland. It answers the most common questions we receive from Elected Members.

If you have a query that is not covered in the information below please contact info@oscr.org.uk.

Scotland has around 24,000 charities of different sizes and wide-ranging purposes, including community groups, religious charities, schools, universities and care providers. Many people give their money and time generously to help charities, which play a valuable role in enhancing life in our communities and beyond.  Particularly important are the tens of thousands of trustees who, on a voluntary basis (with some exceptions), sit on the boards and committees that run these charities.  It is a highly responsible and essential role, very demanding both in terms of the time and the energy required.

To be a Scottish charity, organisations must first meet the ‘Charity Test’ and then comply with on-going responsibilities, including reporting annually to OSCR. Our ‘Being a charity in Scotland’ guidance explains a charity’s duties in more detail.

Every Scottish charity has an entry in the Scottish Charity Register, a free resource maintained by OSCR that provides a varying amount of information on an organisation depending on its income.

Under the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005(the 2005 Act), all organisations that represent themselves as charities in Scotland must register with OSCR. This includes bodies that are established and/or registered as charities in other legal jurisdictions, such as England and Wales. The 2005 Act provides some exceptions where a cross-border charity represents itself as a charity but does not have substantive activity in Scotland. More information on cross-border charities can be found here.


The Scottish Charity Constituency Map is an online tool that shows Scottish charities by constituency regions and areas. It uses data from the Scottish Charity Register from October 2021 and excludes cross border charities.

Access the map here.

OSCR is a Non-Ministerial Department and part of the Scottish Administration following commencement of the 2005 Act.

Our work as Regulator ultimately supports public confidence in charities and their work.  Our vision is one of charities you can trust and that provide public benefit

We achieve this through:


We are Scotland's independent registrar of charities. We publish the definitive Scottish Charity Register of around 24,000 charities at http://www.oscr.org.uk, enabling the public to check charitable status and view financial and other information about charities. We consider over 1,000 new charity applications a year and grant our consent to over 700 existing charities to make changes.


We aim to be a proportionate, fair and transparent regulator. 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.


While we strive to be a supportive, preventative regulator, public confidence in charities demands that we take decisive, robust action where required. We consider around 350 concerns about charities each year. Over 80% of concerns are resolved within 9 months.

More information about OSCR’s work can be found in our Annual Reviews.


You can receive regular updates on our work and developments in the charity sector by:

All of our guidance is available on our website. If you are an elected member who holds a trusteeship, then the pieces of guidance described below are the basic essentials.  However, even if you are not, they should be useful in your current role. 

  • Being a Charity in Scotland – designed to be used throughout a charity’s life, this guidance uses simple graphics and straightforward language to help those who run Scottish charities understand their responsibilities.
  • Who’s in Control? - this guidance explains why clarity about who is in charge of a charity is crucial. This is particularly important for elected members who are also charity trustees. 
  • Checklist for Elected members - assists newly elected members in understanding the role of a charity trustee and the associated duties and responsibilities.
  • Charities and campaigning FAQs - general guidance for charities on campaigning about political issues.
  • ALEOs report - a detailed review into the Arm’s External Length Organisations (ALEOs) that are registered as charities in Scotland.

These organisations help support charities: