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Last Updated: Friday, 23 May, 2003, 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK
Charities regulator calls renewed
Breast cancer machine
The organisation had its bank accounts frozen
Voluntary organisations have renewed their calls for the creation of a Scottish charities regulator to strengthen public confidence.

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), an umbrella body for the sector, said there was a "very weak" system north of the border.

It raised its concerns after the bank accounts of a breast cancer charity were frozen by a Scottish judge.

The Court of Session was told that Breast Cancer Research (Scotland) had only handed 1.5m to good causes from the 13.2m it had raised.

The judge, Lord Drummond Young, banned the organisation from representing itself as a charity.

Taking advice

He suspended the trustees and ordered that its professional fundraiser, Tony Freeman, should not be involved in its management or control.

His company, Solutions RMC, has been paid about 60% of the total income raised by way of commission.

The company said it was taking advice following Friday's hearing.

However, SCVO's corporate affairs director Lucy McTernin said the case highlighted the need for a charities regulator north of the border.

Lucy McTernin
We have a very weak system up here which means that a case like this can happen and it takes six or seven years for it to be processed properly and people called to account.
Lucy McTernin
SCVO corporate affairs director

She said her organisation had been seeking a substantial reform of Scotland's charities laws for more than a decade.

"Unlike in England and Wales, where there is a charity commissioner, we have a very weak system up here which means that a case like this can happen and it takes six or seven years for it to be processed properly and people called to account.

"It is in no-one's interests that the name of charity is undermined in this way.

"We want to confirm public trust, not undermine it," she said.

Ms McTernin said the organisation did not want an identical system to that which operates south of the border.

"What we want is a statutory regulator, an agency which runs a register of charities," she said.

Annual report

Every charity would have to submit information to that register on an annual basis about what it does, where the money comes from and how it is used.

At present charities are required to complete an annual report which should be made available to the public on request.

Ms McTernin said: "The problem is that there is no central holding place for that information.

"Hopefully what a register would do if it was brought in in Scotland would be to bring all that information into a central place which could hopefully be accessed online in a very easily accessible way."

Fundraising companies

She said there were a number of issues surrounding the arrangements made between charities and their fundraisers.

"In England and Wales there is quite a tight system of legislation controlling the relationship between charities and other organisations and professional for-profit fundraising companies.

"There is a clear accountability line between the money that an individual may put in a collecting can or pay for a raffle ticket and the money that actually gets used on good causes by the charity.

"All that is very loose at the moment (in Scotland) and is only guided by a voluntary code that ourselves and the Institute of Fundraising have drawn up," she said.

BBC Scotland's Reevel Alderson
"Breast cancer research is vital to help cut deaths"

Cancer charity accounts frozen
23 May 03  |  Scotland

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