The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) is the regulator and registrar for more than 23,000 Scottish charities. In December 2014, after a seven-year review, it published a report stating that all 52 of Scotland’s independent schools had passed the charity test and hence remained on the OSCR register.
So, it would appear that Scotland’s independent schools had passed an independent public benefit test justifying their charitable status.
Strangely, this was not deemed enough, for the OSCR went on to warn these schools that in future they would face a “higher level of vigilance’’. It was not clear whether any of the other 23,000 Scottish charities on the OSCR register were also so warned.
Now we are told that the Scottish Parliament’s public petitions committee is to seek “clarification’’ on whether there are any plans to look at a 2005 charities Act overseen by the Office of the OSCR.
Apparently, MSPs are to ask ministers to consider reviewing legislation that determines whether private schools can keep their charitable status.
In particular, John Wilson, an SNP MSP committee member, raised concerns that charitable status could be sought by independent schools and other organisations as a means of avoiding tax.
In Edinburgh nearly 25 per cent of school children are educated privately, thereby freeing up places in the state system, significantly reducing the school population density and allowing scarce educational resources to be allocated elsewhere in the education system.
It would be interesting to know who or what has prompted this action by the Scottish Parliament’s public petitions committee.
Muir Wood Grove