OSCR guidance outlines strong right for charities to campaign

OSCR guidance outlines strong right for charities to campaign
Civil Society, by Alice Sharman


Guidance released today by the Scottish charity regulator on political campaigning suggests charities should be allowed a strong right to campaign and confirms that Scottish charities can influence both central and local government.


The guidance suggests that charities have a strong right to campaign politically under charity law, and that OSCR is standing by that right.


It states that charities can “respond to, promote, oppose, or support legislation” and that Scottish charities are allowed to “petition and otherwise seek to change public policy”, and “support a policy advocated by a political party (but not the party itself)”.


It adds: “Charities can distribute information or engage in debate about the policies of political parties or candidates, where these activities are ways of achieving their charitable purposes.”


OSCR’s guidance does go on to say that while charities may choose to engage in public debate, trustees must make sure that this activity is in pursuit of charitable purposes, and be in the best interests of the charity.


The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations has said that it welcomes OSCR’s guidance.
A spokeswoman said: "The document provides charities with the clear and simple guidance they need to assess their campaigning on political issues.


“The positive tone and approach adopted by OSCR in the guidance will help reassure charities that the vast majority of campaigning activity is permissible by charity and electoral law.”


The guidance, which was released in the form of frequently asked questions, is “aimed at supporting charities in meeting the requirements of electoral and charity law” in advance of next year’s general election.


OSCR has said that when charities are campaigning with non-charities, they must make sure they do not compromise the independence of the charity by being associated with any political parties and politicians.


It also added that when charities are engaging with political parties and politicians, charities must remember that they must be independent of party politics, and should be seen to be independent as well.