Simon Mackintosh talks to Maggie Stanfield about reform within the Scottish charity sector in The Scotsman's Business of Charities supplement.

Charities are big business these days. Many third-sector organisations are massive corporate structures with enormous turnovers employing thousands of people. Alongside these, there are the smaller and more localised operations that manage on very limited budgets but still succeed in making fundamental positive changes in people's lives.

One thing they all have in common is a mission to help others and to return income to those charitable purposes.

It is as disparate a picture as the private sector and it faces many of the same kinds of issues: increasing costs, demands for efficiency saving, increased professionalism and a constant squeeze on resources, to mention just a few.

Compliance with the regulations set out in the remit of the Office of the Scottish Charities Register (OSCR) has presented many charities with new challenges. Simon Mackintosh, partner and head of charities at Turcan Connell, has vast experience of the issues involved.

Simon states:"I think OSCR has got to grips with the legislation and now has a clear understanding of the Scottish charity sector. The website now allows online inputs and provides useful guidance, lessons learned and case studies.

"What would be really helpful, following its rolling review, would be if OSCR could draw up some more specific guidance on areas such as equality, fee-charging charities and constitutional concerns. It is important that a constitution is able to manage potential conflicts of interest and to ensure that there are suitable structures in place for proper governance and delegation.

"The role of trustees as set out in the 2005 Act is certainly challenging. Trustees need to be clear about what their duties are and what they are expected to do. There is a standard of care that must be maintained in the best interests of the charity and I think the legislation has helped to introduce higher quality trustees."

Not all of the regulations add complications. Where previously trustees, often quite oblivious of the fact, could carry personal responsibility for areas such as pensions and redundancy payments, there now exists an alternative structure.

"A Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) gives a charity a corporate entity that creates a barrier between the trustees and the obligations of the charity," explains Mackintosh.

"Instead of having to create a company limited by guarantee and registered with Companies House, this simpler structure protects the trustees."

To read the article in full an view the online supplement, click here.

Deputy Head of Charities, Gavin McEwan, also commented in the supplement.