Scottish charity law—overview
Produced in partnership with Gavin McEwan of Turcan Connell
Scottish charity law—overview

The following Private Client guidance note Produced in partnership with Gavin McEwan of Turcan Connell provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Scottish charity law—overview
  • Historical background
  • Principal legal sources
  • The provisions of CTI(S)A 2005
  • Tax aspects
  • Cross-border aspects

Historical background

Trusts for charitable purposes, as a subset of the concept of public trusts in Scotland, may be considered the precursors to modern Scottish charities. The law on public trusts developed largely through a series of Court of Session cases in the nineteenth century, which built on earlier English law principles.

The closest Scotland came to a formal definition of charitable purposes was the definition used in England and Wales for tax purposes set down in the case of Commissioners for Special Purposes of Income Tax v Pemsel which in turn relied upon the Statute of Charitable Uses (1601). The definition was reiterated for Scottish purposes in the case of Inland Revenue Commissioners v City of Glasgow Police Athletic Association.

The Pemsel classification provided for four main heads of charitable purpose summarised as:

  1. the advancement of education

  2. the advancement of religion

  3. the relief of poverty; and

  4. other purposes beneficial to the community

Scotland’s first statutory definition of charitable purposes came with the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 (asp 10) (CTI(S)A 2005). CTI(S)A 2005 arose primarily out of the Scottish Charity Law Review Commission, which reported in 2001 and which coincided with other reviews carried out by the Charity Commission for England and Wales and the Strategy Unit of the Cabinet Office of the UK government.

Principal legal