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OSCR concludes inquiry into shadowy Scots charity

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Regulator won't take formal action

OSCR won’t take formal action against a controversial Fife-based charity following a data breach and alleged misuse of its Twitter feed.

The Institute of Statecraft, a thinktank which runs a Foreign Office-funded project called the Integrity Initiative, was subjected to an Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator probe last year after it was accused of political bias.

That probe has now concluded with OSCR saying the charity has taken steps to meet the charity test and to address the governance issues identified in its inquiry.

OSCR stepped in after the organisation was accused by MPs of routinely using its Twitter feed to disseminate personal attacks and smears against Labour and Jeremy Corbyn largely through retweets.

The charity has received around £2.2m from the UK government.

During the course of its inquiry OSCR found that the charity was not meeting the legal tests required for charitable status as the Integrity Initiative did not provide public benefit and that also trustees had breached their duties to act with care and diligence.

It was also subjected to a major data breach which it blamed on Russian state interference.

The report made a number of recommendations including that decisions taken by trustees are recorded; that the charity remembers its mission to promote public benefit in everything it does; and that extra diligence is taken over social media activity.

“In the light of the actions taken by the charity trustees, we do not consider formal action by OSCR to be necessary or proportionate,” OSCR said, adding: “We will continue to monitor the charity’s activities and governance.”

What is the Institute of Statecraft?

OSCR concludes inquiry into shadowy Scots charity

Registered in Scotland, but with its offices in London, the institute says its aim is to help improve governance and statecraft in the public sector in the UK and overseas.

This includes programmes such as health service and police reform as well as conflict resolution, countering Islamist extremism and countering disinformation.

It is run by retired Ministry of Defence civil servant Chris Donnelly and Daniel Lafayeedney, a former SAS officer from a former millhouse in Gateside, Fife (pictured).

The organisation, which describes itself as a think-tank and a do-tank, employs a small staff of about a dozen people.

It also has about 90 Fellows, including a handful of individuals who have a background in British intelligence or the military so are experts in security and defence.

In 2015 the institute set up a programme called the Integrity Initiative, which it said was designed to counter and raise awareness about disinformation by countries such as Russia and China as well as extremist groups like IS.

This programme started to receive Foreign and Commonwealth Office funding in 2017 but the founders claim the institute is independent of the government and has never been told what to do.