Charities (Regulation and Administration) (Scotland) Bill: equalities impact assessment

Equalities impact assessment for the Charities (Regulation and Administration) (Scotland) Bill.

2. Stage 1: Framing

Results of framing exercise

Although the immediate impact of this Bill directly affects a relatively small group there could potentially be consequential effects on those with protected characteristics laid out in equality legislation[9]; age, disability, gender reassignment, gender, race, religion and belief, and sexual orientation. We[10] have considered the following based on research and evidence.


The Scottish Charity Register (“the Register”) will not include the age of trustees. The internal database for OSCR use will hold the date of birth of the charity trustee to serve as a unique identifier should there be a number of trustees with the same name.

The Register is available online. Statistically internet usage is very high amongst the general population up to the age of 75. Only 43% of over 75-year-olds in Scotland used the internet in 2019[11] so many in this age group may be uncomfortable or unable to access the register directly themselves. Notably, there has been a significant increase in internet use amongst older adults aged 60+ (from 29 per cent to 66 per cent) in 2019[12].

Although there has been an increase in IT literacy, there are still some who would prefer not to use an online portal. The OSCR Online portal asks whether a charity is uploading accounts or providing a hard copy. OSCR report that they still encounter a significant number of charities that have capability to complete online returns but not to scan and attach electronic copies of accounts. Around 2,000 paper accounts are received by OSCR each year. These are scanned and uploaded by OSCR staff to the charity’s online entry. If a charity is unable to complete the annual return form online, they can request a paper copy and OSCR staff will input the data online when it is returned.

This concern about IT literacy applies to those requesting to see accounts as well. Section 23 of the 2005 Act[13] provides a right to request a copy of a charity's constitution or latest set of accounts. This existing right gives a person the right to make reasonable requests about the form the information takes e.g., they may request the accounts in hard copy. Additionally in terms of section 21 of the 2005 Act OSCR must make the register available for public inspection at its principal office. As with the Register, new section 45B (inserted by section 9 of the Bill) provides that OSCR must make the statements of account available for public inspection at its principal office. This is a reasonable mitigation against this issue.


Accessibility issues may exist for those with literacy or numeracy barriers. Although the Scottish Survey of Adult Literacies 2009 found that overall, the Scottish population has a good level of literacy skills in line with international expectations there is still a need to ensure that barriers to accessibility are tackled where possible. While around 25% of the adult population would benefit from improving their literacy skills, only around 3.6% of the Scottish population has very limited capabilities[14].

The evidence gathered from national surveys suggests that a high percentage of households in Scotland have someone who is disabled or has a long-term health condition. The accessibility of the online platform that OSCR will use to collect information for the trustee registers and the return of accounts is a critical design factor with regard to people with disabilities and neurodiversity affecting processing or reading ability.

The online service used by charities at present[15] will not change as a result of any of the proposals. OSCR have recently introduced an updated and improved online system which allows charities to complete their annual returns and attach their accounts submission for OSCR’s records using the online portal. When the system was procured, it was designed to meet the UK Government Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG2.1)[16] standards using Microsoft templates. Accessibility charities were invited to review the system during testing, and this is under regular review. OSCR’s website is the place where the public will view charity accounts. The website has additional accessibility features, such as Recite Me and Dyslexia / high contrast sliders which go beyond the requirements developers advised OSCR at the time the platform was being designed.

OSCR also provides support to users of the online system through guidance[17]. Tooltips will also be added to OSCR Online forms during phase 2 of the rollout. OSCR staff provide extensive real time help by telephone and email to users of the service and work with staff in Third Sector Interfaces to ensure that they are equipped to assist charities. There is also allowance for charities to complete hard copy forms and accounts where requested.

Gender Reassignment:

OSCR will not directly collect data on a person’s gender identity or indicate whether an individual had previously identified by another name, which could indicate a change in gender identity. However, it could become apparent should a transgender person change their name after their data has been entered on the public Register, then their name on the Register would need to be updated. This would be necessary to both meet the aims of the Register and correctly reflect a transgender individual’s identity.

It should also be recognised that, as with the potential for a person’s religion or belief being inferred from their trusteeship of a particular charitable organisation this could also be true of transgender individuals.


The sector is dominated by women – a far higher percentage of women than men volunteer throughout the third sector. Two thirds of employees (70.6%) are female.[18] This is not reflected in the more senior roles, however, with only 47% of women holding senior management roles and 40% of charity trustees being women.[19]

An individual’s gender would not be shared by the Register, the record of removed charity trustees or the publication of accounts, however it could be indirectly captured and inferred due to naming conventions. In some instances, identifying those associated with certain organisations could lead to the revealing of information that could indirectly disadvantage people on the basis of their gender. For example, the location of a women’s shelter might be revealed through the identity of a charity trustee, which would put the women who use the shelter at risk. In this scenario, the publication of these details would indirectly have a negative impact on women both as trustees and as beneficiaries of a charity. To mitigate risks such as this, trustees can apply for a dispensation if they feel that including that information is likely to jeopardise the safety or security of any person or premises as per section 3(4) of the 2005 Act[20].


Although the Register, the record of removed charity trustees and accounts collection would not overtly capture an individual’s ethnicity, there could be an inference through a person’s name in some cases. There are also charities that cater to specific BAME communities and refugees, a person's race or ethnicity could be inferred, correctly or incorrectly, by being associated with one of these organisations. The adult population in Scotland in 2019 was largely ‘White: Scottish’/‘White: Other British’, with 89% of adults having reported these ethnic groups in 2019. Just over one in forty (3%) adults reported their ethnicity as ‘Asian, Asian Scottish or Asian British’ in 2019.[21]


Currently there are 4798 charities with the advancement of religion as a charitable purpose[22] on the Register in Scotland. An individual’s belief or non-belief will not be collected by the Register however if an individual is associated with an organisation run by or affiliated with a religious body then it might be inferred, correctly or incorrectly, that the individual holds the same beliefs as that organisation.

Engagement with large religious organisations has shown that the requirements of the Register will have a significant impact on a few of them due to the nature of their organisational structures[23], which would require large numbers of trustee details to be entered on the Register. These organisational structures are historical and based on belief and it has been argued that this association could result in discrimination and should be subject to dispensation.

Sexual Orientation:

Although attitudes towards same sex relationships in Scotland have improved in recent years, with 69% of people surveyed stating that they consider them to be rarely/not wrong at all,[24] a Galop study found that of 1123 LGBT+ 64% of respondents had experienced some form of anti-LGBT+ violence or abuse.[25]

As with religion and transgender above, if a person’s sexual orientation could be inferred, correctly or incorrectly, from their trusteeship of a particular charity this could potentially lead to discrimination.



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