The charity regulator wants to increase public access by publishing all annual reports on its website
All Scottish charities could see their annual reports published online under new moves from the regulator.
The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) says it wants to follow the Charity Commission in England’s lead and publish annual accounts online to widen access and increase charities’ transparency.
Despite being a considerable undertaking, OSCR says it has asked the Scottish Government to change current legislation to enable it to happen.
In its annual report, the body said the move would be problematic but not impossible.
However, one issue of concern, said the report, is data protection laws.
Publishing accounts is important in promoting the transparency and accountability of charities - David Robb
"We haven’t yet specified a timescale, but we will be consulting in the next few weeks on our targeted regulation programme, which includes the publication of charity accounts on the register," said David Robb, OSCR chief executive.
"We believe that publishing accounts is important in promoting the transparency and accountability of charities, and allowing the public greater access to information on how charities spend their money and the activities they carry out."
John Downie, director of public affairs at SCVO, said the move was an encouraging step which will make it easier for people to find out about the activities and funding sources of charities in Scotland.
“Although in theory members of the public can already contact a charity and request a copy of their accounts, currently many smaller charities seem to be unaware of this, or lack the resources to deal with requests,” he said.
“Many organisations already publish accounts on their website, but for smaller charities it means that they won’t need to post out paper copies anymore, saving time and money.”
The regulator's annual report lists four other issues taken to ministers – including the removal of unresponsive charities from the register and its power to recover and protect charitable assets, though these issues are still ongoing.
Elsewhere, the report reveals the number of charities applying for reorganisation has increased threefold – from 141 in 2012/13 to 422 over the last year.
Reorganisation is available to charities for releasing unused charitable funds.
It allows charities whose constitution or articles prevent them from selling assets, for example, to apply to OSCR for authority to do so.
The report states: "The increase in reorganisation applications was primarily because local authorities have been seeking to significantly reduce the number of charitable trusts they administer in order to minimise audit fees.”
The report also shows a rapid rise in applications for organisations registering as Scottish charitable incorporated organisations (SCIOs).
Almost 1,191 of the 23,777 organisations on the Scottish charity register were SCIOs.
Of those SCIOs, 894 were newly formed organisations, 55 were conversions from charitable companies and 242 had previously been other legal forms including trusts and unincorporated associations.