Appendix 1: SCIO

Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation 

The Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) is a new legal form for registered Scottish charities. The SCIO is a corporate body which is a legal entity able to enter into contracts, employ staff, incur debts, own property, sue and be sued. 

There are important differences between being a SCIO and being any other type of body with charitable status in Scotland. Before applying to become a SCIO, organisations need to be fully aware of the implications that this form of charitable status brings. Please read the OSCR publications, SCIOs: A Guide and the SCIOs: FAQs for further information. 

This new form of charitable status has been available from 1 April 2011 to individuals thinking about applying for charitable status for a new organisation and, on a phased basis as follows, to existing charities wishing to change their legal form: 

  • existing charitable companies and charitable industrial and provident societies are able to apply to convert to SCIO form as of 1 January 2012; 
  • existing Scottish charities which are any other type of legal form have been able to apply to change legal form to a SCIO from 1 April 2011. 

Managing your SCIO 

SCIOs, as with all other types of charitable bodies registered in Scotland, have certain legal requirements to meet, for example reporting to the Office of the Scottish Charitable Regulator (OSCR) on an annual basis. 

It is important for organisations to understand the operating and reporting requirements for SCIOs. Further information is available from section 5 of OSCR publication, SCIOs: A Guide, and the Managing your charity section of the OSCR website. 

Help in setting up your SCIO 

While OSCR can advise you on the application process and meeting their requirements, OSCR are unable to help you with setting up your SCIO. Information and guidance about setting up a SCIO is available from: 

  • Your local Third Sector Interface, organisations which offer support to voluntary organisations. 
  • The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO). 
  • Organisations considering applying to become a SCIO may also wish to consult a professional adviser. The Law Society of Scotland and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland may be able to help you identify a professional firm with expertise in charity law and accounting. 
  • HMRC will be able to help you with any questions you may have about tax. 
  • The Scottish Government’s website has an Enterprising Third Sector Zone which gives details of the help and practical support available. 

Applying for SCIO status 

OSCR’s How to Apply page provides advice on the SCIO application process. If you are an existing charity wishing to change legal form to a SCIO, please read OSCR’s Making changes to your charity page for further information and an application form. 

Can a charity registered with the Charity Commission become a SCIO? 

Charity trustees of unincorporated charities that are registered with both the Charity Commission and with OSCR (known as ‘cross-border charities’) may decide that they wish to incorporate by becoming a SCIO. 

While this is possible, the charity trustees must be aware that changing the charity’s legal form to a SCIO will result in the charity ending its registration with the Charity Commission and being regulated solely by OSCR. This is because SCIOs are established under Scottish law, and therefore do not fall within the Charity Commission’s jurisdiction. 

Cross-border charities which wish to become SCIOs should firstly apply to OSCR to incorporate a new SCIO. If that application is successful and the new SCIO is registered, the charity trustees should then apply to dissolve the unincorporated crossborder charity and transfer its assets to the SCIO. 

Once the Charity Commission has received confirmation that the unincorporated charity has been dissolved and the assets have been transferred to the SCIO, it will remove that unincorporated charity from its charity register. 

Working with SCIOs 

OSCR’s Working with SCIOs leaflet gives anyone who is working with, or planning to work with, SCIOs more details about this new legal form and how it is regulated. OSCR explain what is different about SCIOs, the rules they must comply with, and what you need to know if you are considering working with a SCIO. 

Applications to dissolve a SCIO 

SCIOs must apply to OSCR if they want to dissolve. Note that, as part of charity law, OSCR is required to publish these applications. Sourced from the OSCRs downloadable pdf SCIOs: A Guide.