However OSCR has warned the figure may drop in the coming year
The amount of charities in Scotland has increased over the last year, despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
OSCR’s annual report for 2020/21 has revealed there was an increase in the number of registered Scottish charities from 24,882 in 2019-20 to 25,230 at the end of 2020-21.
However the regulator has said the figures should be read with caution, as registrations and closures were lower than normal and that it may see an increase in organisations being removed from the register in the coming year.
The report said: “Not surprisingly, we received fewer applications than usual for charitable status in quarter one, and average numbers thereafter which means that the increase is likely to have been caused by lower than usual numbers of charities being removed from the Register.
“Whilst we cannot be certain, we believe that some charities have not been able to hold the formal meetings required to agree removal, and on that basis, we anticipate higher than average removals once lockdown eases.”
There were 817 Scottish charities registered (compared to 874 in 2019-20), with 96% of consent to change applications considered within the required timescale.
The percentage of charities failing to provide annual returns and accounts within 12 months of their accounting year increased from 4% 2019-2020 to 13% 2020-21. The report said this was likely due to the pandemic and the limitations this imposed on charities to perform their statutory duties.
The number of concerns about charities OSCR received decreased from 620 to 426 during the year.
The report said: “Following initial assessment, we determined that it was appropriate for us to act in only 43 cases, which is a 60% reduction on the previous year.
“The reduction is likely down to two reasons, the first one being charities were less active, and hence there were fewer activities to cause concern; and the second being the likely focus of the public with the direct impact of the pandemic rather than on the activities of charitable bodies.
“Perhaps as a consequence of all of this, we ended the year with a lower number of open inquiries than in 2019-20, 179 down from 213, and whilst we aim to conclude as many as we can within nine months of receipt, this is not always possible.”
The regulator introduced a new organisational structure to help develop a cross-disciplinary approach to its work, and made significant progress in delivering on its digital strategy, in particular developing a replacement to the OSCR Online system that charities use to submit their annual information.
OSCR chief executive Maureen Mallon said: “In early 2020, public health restrictions introduced to limit the spread of Covid-19 meant that Scotland was in lockdown, our offices closed and our staff working from home. This situation created a challenging backdrop to all our work over the next 12 months, but with perseverance, professionalism and hard work our team reshaped OSCR from an organisation based around an office based culture to one that is now equipped for the flexible, hybrid-working approach which will underpin every successful organisation in the future.
“We hope that this report shows the progress we have made. It has only been made possible by the talent and hard work with fantastic staff team, underpinned by the positive backing of our board. I am very grateful for their support and the support of all our stakeholders across the third sector.”