Trustees have much to consider, both in the next few months as campaigning gathers pace, and after the event. The issues around taxation and funding, health, welfare and social care, and the position of UK-wide organisations, are already being debated.
While it may be impossible to give definitive answers, it’s important for all third sector trustees to engage in long-term thinking now, and assess any risks and opportunities for their own organisations.
As well as thinking about how independence might affect you personally, take the time to think about how the decision made in September may affect the future of your organisation.
For many trustees, funding will be an important concern. If you’ve come across any issues with regard to funding from individual donations or UK-wide grant giving trusts, I’d like to hear from you. We have heard rumours of a few UK trusts not being willing to commit to future funding in Scotland until after the referendum. Is this an urban myth? Or is it happening out there?
We plan to ask all relevant funders on our Funding Scotland database if they will change their funding criteria in the event of Independence, but it would be good to hear from you if you have experienced any difficulties. Just drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pages 579 to 581 of the Scottish Government referendum white paper looks at some of the questions surrounding charities and the third sector. Many technical and detailed questions cannot be answered until we know what Scotland decides, but it’s important for charity trustees to be engaged and informed in the independence debate. It offers an opportunity for organisations to shape political and social policy, and improve conditions for their users and beneficiaries.
But remember, a charity cannot advance any one particular political party and should operate within the framework of charity law. This doesn’t mean you can’t campaign or participate in the referendum process, as long as it will advance your charitable aims and objectives, and your activities aren’t prohibited by your constitution. For more information, OSCR has produced guidance, explaining the key issues that charities must consider.
There’s other useful information from the Carnegie UK Trust and ACOSVO who have published Ten steps for charities and the independence referendumwhich includes case studies from five very different organisations.
You can also take a look at this short article by Alastair Keatinge from Lindsays, a partner in our free legal advice service, where he looks at the implications of the referendum on UK charities.
So as well as thinking about how independence might affect you personally, take the time to think about how the decision made in September may affect the future of your organisation. Before taking any action though, be sure you’re acting in the best interests of the charity. It’s particularly important to check your governing document to confirm you are acting within your powers.
If you have any specific questions on any legal issues raised by the upcoming referendum, we can refer them to our free legal advice service.