In December 2012 the Carnegie UK Trust published a report – ‘A Charitable Concern’ - which summarised the results of a survey carried out into how charities were facing up to the challenges of the referendum on independence. In general, the results showed that, of those surveyed, many charities had not planned for the impact of possible constitutional change, were reluctant to step into the public debate for fear of being cast as being in favour of one particular outcome, and were also concerned about the extent to which charities can be involved in ‘political activity’. One of Carnegie UK Trust’s recommendations was for OSCR, as Scotland’s charity regulator, to produce guidance for charities on the issues.
Today, OSCR has issued its draft guidance for public consultation (it has already been the subject of limited consultation amongst certain charities and umbrella bodies). In short, OSCR recognises the important role charities can (and should) play in the debate, and indicates that its view is that charities may campaign for one particular outcome if to do so is in furtherance of their purposes. OSCR also recommends that charities start planning now (at a strategic level) for the implications of the vote, whatever the outcome. OSCR has asked for feedback on the draft guidance by 15 May, and its intention is to publish the final guidance at the end of May.