Scottish independence: Charities should address future

Charity collection Some charities thought there were more pressing issues than independence to deal with

Scottish charities need to starting talking about the possible implications of independence, despite a "reluctance" to do so, a report has said.

Most charities asked about the issue in a survey by the Carnegie UK Trust had not prepared for a possibility of a 'Yes' vote in the 2014 referendum.

Some organisations expressed concern of being labelled on one side or other of the debate.

Others said it was too soon to start discussing the issue in depth.

A total of 164 charities with a turnover of more than £500,000, providing services in areas like education, disability and the arts took part in the report.

Some were specific Scottish charities, while others were UK-linked.

A total of 92% of Scotland-only organisations said they had made no preparation towards independence, with the proportion at 88% for those with UK links.

One large, UK-linked charity described the present circumstances in Scotland as "toxic", while the chair of another big Scottish organisation said on the issue of constitutional change: "Don't touch it with a bargepole".

Other charities said the referendum was still two years away and there were more pressing issues, like changes in government policy, to focus on.

The report said: "A majority of interviewees described their respective organisations as having some reluctance about discussing such possible constitutional changes".

It went on to say: "All of those representatives with whom these matters have been discussed have been explicit in their views that their organisation should not take sides or act in a manner that might be seen to affiliate the organisation with one set of protagonists in the constitutional debate."

The report made several recommendations, including:

  • Charity trustees should consider possible implications of constitutional change in 2013, the year before the referendum.
  • Charities should guide staff of how to respond to queries from clients and others on independence.
  • The Scottish government should provide, as soon as possible, information on how they may be affected by constitutional change, including tax issues.

The report, produced by Prof Richard Kerley, of Queen Margaret University, said the number of charities involved was too small to draw sector-wide conclusions, but nonetheless provided a "useful insight" into how prepared it was for the possibility of independence.

It was based on research carried out in the spring and early summer of 2012.

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