Charities and not-for-profit in Scotland

Brodies LLP

Brodies LLP's charities practice acts for private trusts, grant-giving bodies, social enterprises and corporate structures looking to invest in the third sector. As the sole legal adviser to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR), the team is frequently instructed to advise charities on compliance issues and help new bodies set up Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisations (SCIOs). The firm also provides exclusive advice to a range of large trusts and grant-giving bodies on a range of matters including GDPR, tax and development for charitable purposes. Practice head Alan Eccles is regarded as 'one of the leading advisers in the sector'.

Practice head(s):

Alan Eccles; Brenda Scott


‘Within the parameters of the work we asked of them (setting up two SCIOs, advising on the content of the constitutions of the SCIOs, advising lay people on the duties of charity trustees, and obtaining the opinion above referred to),  a strong performance with no discernible weaknesses.’

‘Alan Eccles is recognised as one of the leading advisers in the Scottish charities sector.’

Key clients

Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator

Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Royal Incorporation of Hutchesons’ Hospital in the City of Glasgow

Cattanach Trust

Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice

LAR Housing Trust

Macmillan Cancer Support

Little Sisters of the Poor

John Mather Trust

Malaria No More UK

Work highlights

  • Sole legal advisor for the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, Scotland’s charity regulator, providing recent advice concerning the interpretation of the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 and providing training to OSCR on the responsibilities of charity trustees in relation to safeguarding.
  • Hired (on recommendation from Glasgow City Council’s head of legal) to provide bespoke, specialist and unusual advice and assistance to the Royal Incorporation of Hutcheson’s Hospital in the City of Glasgow to promote an Act of Parliament that will allow the charity to transfer its assets to a new SCIO.
  • Appointed as sole legal advisers to Cattanach Charitable Trust, one of the largest Scottish grant-making charities, giving advice that has so far included GDPR management and implementing a memorandum of understanding to govern the relationship between trustees and the charity.
  • Appointed as sole legal advisors to act on behalf of LAR Housing Trust for the acquisition of existing developments and to assist with the acquisition of sites for new developments.

Burness Paull LLP

Burness Paull LLP acts for major charities, grant-giving bodies and development trusts, providing advice concerning governance issues, investments, employment disputes, joint ventures and compliance. The team also frequently acts in the formation of new charitable bodies, and handles complex restructuring matters, including the winding up of charitable bodies and the transfer of staff from one company to another. The 'approachable and innovative' Stephen Phillips, who holds the position of the Convener of the Charity law sub-committee of the Law Society of Scotland, has notable expertise with corporate legal structures and proved instrumental in developing the constitutional model behind the SCIO charity structure.

Practice head(s):

Stephen Phillips


‘Burness Paull has provided many hours of valuable help on issues of charity law and governance.’

‘The team, led by Stephen Phillips, are all approachable and willing to help. Stephen provides an innovative and creative approach to issues, and Gillian Harkness has been a thought provoking speaker at our events.’

‘Emma Maxwell and Rhona McAdam provide thoughtful and considered advice in an easy to understand way.’

Key clients

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

Glasgow Life

Development Trusts Association Scotland

St Andrew’s Ambulance Association

Epilepsy Scotland

Action for Children

Thistle Foundation

Standard Life Foundation


Bates Wells & Braithwaite London LLP

Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow

Archway (Respite Care and Housing) Limited

Sustrans Limited

Airdrie Citizens Advice Bureau

Victim Support Scotland

Work highlights

  • Advised the Scottish Football Association on its formation of a single national governing body for para-football in Scotland, leading to the decision to apply for a Scottish Charity Incorporated Association structure which was approved by the OSCR in 2018.
  • Advising the Hub Community Foundation in relation to its investment in a series of project and drafting agreements with third parties to which HCF assigns interest.
  • Advised Voluntary Service Aberdeen on the conclusion of a conditional contract for disposal of part of their site at Kings Gate, Aberdeen and subsequently assisting them with the transfer of affordable housing obligations to a new purpose built living accommodation site elsewhere in Aberdeen.
  • Advised Scottish Power Energy Networks on the establishment of the Green Economy Fund, to support initiatives that will support Scotland’s ambitious green energy plans and local economic growth.
  • Advising Victim Support Scotland on a full-scale governance review and giving advice on the conversion of the charity to a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation.

Gillespie Macandrew LLP

Gillespie Macandrew LLP works with trusts and charities on SCIO incorporation, restructuring matters such as mergers and staff transfers, investments, governance and contentious matters such as disputes with the OSCR. The team has notable strength in the land and rural sector and a reputation for giving highly detailed and tailored advice to clients across the board. Practice head Lianne Lodge, who sits on the Law Society of Scotland Charity Law sub-committee, is well-known for helping philanthropists establish charities in Scotland. Corporate head Chris Smith, has a specialism in advising charities on corporate matters.

Practice head(s):

Lianne Lodge

Other key lawyers:

Chris Smith

Key clients

Johnson & Johnston Corporate Citizenship Trust

Poppy Scotland

Weir Charitable Trust

North Berwick Trust

Royal College of Physicians

Royal Regiment of Scotland

Work highlights

  • Advising Poppy Scotland in relation to their legal needs, including protecting the intellectual property of the Scottish (four petal) poppy, dealing with rental agreements with the Ministry of Defence and all other employment and contract issues.
  • Advising North Berwick Trust on incorporating and the transition to North Berwick Trust Ltd.
  • Advising Tor Christian Nursing Home following its closure in order to repurpose the charity as a very different type of organisation, focusing on grant giving in order to fulfil its charitable purposes.
  • Handling all administration matters for Erskine of Torrie Institution, including the transfer of a loan from National Galleries of Scotland to Historic Environment Scotland.

Turcan Connell

Turcan Connell's 'calm and pragmatic' team advises charities, philanthropists and grant-giving bodies on governance and audits, OSCR and GDPR compliance, the establishment of new charitable bodies and changes to the structure of trusts, with a particular focus on education, heritage and arts and culture. 'Reassuring and informed' practice head Gavin McEwan recently took forward the first-ever charity appeal to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland. Newly promoted associate Debbie McIlwraith Cameron has notable expertise with data protection, training charitable clients including the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh on the impact of GDPR.

Practice head(s):

Simon Mackintosh; Gavin McEwan

Other key lawyers:

Debbie McIlwraith Cameron


‘Turcan Connell’s experience of advising charities is what makes them really special. They understand the issues we are facing, and can make very practical suggestions based on their work with so many similar organisations.’

‘The team have a good understanding of the charity sector and are very open and welcoming and well connected in the sector. They are held in high regard and well respected in their field. ‘

‘Gavin McEwan is the finest lawyer I’ve ever worked with. Rather than waiting for problems to arise, he anticipates them, and has solutions to suggest immediately.’

‘Debbie McIllraith Cameron is a knowledgeable friend to the sector who helps open doors, build confidence and is a role model to other young women in her field and beyond.’

Key clients

New Lanark

Artists Collective

Royal British Legion Scotland

Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh

Queen Elizabeth Castle of Mey Trust

Royal Scottish Academy / RSA Foundation

National Trust for Scotland

Royal Caledonian Education Trust

Shetland Charitable Trust Patrons of Spittal’s Hospital

Work highlights

  • Represented New Lanark in the first charity appeal ever to be taken to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland, General Regulatory Chamber.
  • Advised Artists Collective on the governance and commercial property aspects of the creation of a new public gallery space in Edinburgh.
  • Providing advice to the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh on governance and constitutional issues, disputes around recognition of members and fellows, and the charity law aspects of the refinancing of a hotel project carried out by the client.  
  • Advised the Royal Caledonian Education Trust on a revision of an Act of Parliament and the creation of new governance arrangements.

Anderson Strathern

Anderson Strathern's practice acts for a broad range of clients including SCIOs, grant-giving bodies, housing associations, arm's length organisations, international charities and regulatory bodies. The team possesses a wealth of experience setting up trusts and charities and modernising the structures of charitable vehicles, and has recently handled a number of high-profile safeguarding matters for clients facing public scrutiny. Practice head Victoria Simpson leads on constitutional and governance mandates, such as charitable mergers and acquisitions, reorganisation of trust deeds and compliance with OSCR guidelines.

Practice head(s):

Victoria Simpson


‘Anderson Strathern is a highly professional multi specialist legal firm but still retains the ability to engage clients on a one-to-one basis.’

‘Victoria Simpson’s knowledge of charity legislation is first class.’

Key clients

Archdiocese of Edinburgh and St Andrews

Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

Glasgow Caledonian University

Sailors’ Society

Fettes College

YMCA Scotland

R S Macdonald Trust

Live Borders

The National Trust for Scotland

Abbotsford Trust

Work highlights

  • Advised Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority on setting up an important SCIO to work with other local bodies in order to enhance and improve the local area, amenities and tourist attractions.
  • Setting up and acting for a significant family charitable trust that will hold a substantial portfolio.
  • Worked with The Royal College of Nursing Charitable Foundation’s English solicitors Bates Wells Braithwaite to achieve a Charity Commission Scheme that allowed for the merger of some restricted funds and also to widen the charitable purposes of the foundation in order to make use of these funds.
  • Advised one of the largest grant giving trusts in the UK on the reorganisation of its trust deed and other ongoing advice.

BTO Solicitors LLP

BTO Solicitors LLP's 'exceptional' practice is regularly instructed by clients who wish to gain SCIO status and handles a large volume of matters for charitable registered social landlords, advising them on all aspects of their business, including employment disputes, lease arrangements and site licenses. The team shows further expertise handling employment tribunal claims on behalf of employers, such as West Lothian College, and advising a range of clients on GDPR compliance. The 'very experienced' Marion Davis takes the lead with most clients and brings a wealth of knowledge to the team in terms of SCIO compliance and constitutional matters, thanks to her OSCR secondment.

Practice head(s):

Patrice Fabien; Marion Davis

Other key lawyers:

Marion Davis


‘Very good knowledge of charities and associated corporate and business law.’ 

‘BTO’s professionalism, knowledge and reputation as a sector leader is exceptional, as well as the support they provide to you on a practical level.’

‘An outstanding legal practice.’

‘Marion Davis is the key person in the charities practice. She is very experienced and ready to find solutions.’

Key clients

Royal National Lifeboat Institute

Whistleblowing International Network

Students’ Association of the University of the West of Scotland

University of Strathclyde Students’ Association

The Citizens Theatre

Argyll Community Housing Association Limited

CLIC Sargent Cancer Care for Children

Epilepsy Action Scotland

Thistle Housing Association Limited

The Richmond Fellowship Scotland

Hillhead Housing Association 2000

Greenock Arts Guild Limited

East Ayrshire Carers Centre

The Scottish Cremation Society Limited

Clyde Valley Housing Association Ltd

Southside Housing Association Ltd

Cathcart and District Housing Association Limited

Partick Housing Association Limited

Craigdale Housing Association Limited

McSence Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised on constitutional options and assisted to incorporate and achieve charity registration for the Whistleblowing International Network.
  • Assisting the Student’s Association of the University of the West of Scotland to move from its current unincorporated association form to a company limited by guarantee.
  • Advising The Architectural Heritage Fund in connection with funding arrangements for various charities.
  • Advised on the setting up of two separate charities – both supporting arts, culture and heritage, but operating in different locations with different focuses; achieving registration for the first, with work continuing on the second.


Lindsays handles the full range of constitutional and governance matters for charities, from SCIO incorporation to OSCR compliance, in addition to a significant volume of mandates concerning mergers, restructurings and contentious employment matters. David Dunsire, who joined from Shepherd and Wedderburn in 2018, has added a wealth of knowledge on corporate structures and contractual matters to the team. Alastair Keatinge - 'one of the most prominent figures in the charity legal sector' - is described as 'the ideal charity lawyer: sound, conscientious, reliable and a pleasure to deal with.'

Practice head(s):

Alastair Keatinge

Other key lawyers:

David Dunsire


‘The Lindsays team are committed to the charities sector in Scotland. They are a recognised specialist in the provision of legal services to the sector.’

‘Alastair Keatinge not only knows the legislation inside out but is able to give practical advice as to how the Scottish charity regulator interprets it.’

‘A good all-round traditional practice of the best sort: professional, skilled and with a wide range of experience, businesslike but not over-commercial. All-importantly, the firm puts the interests of its clients first.’

‘Alastair Keatinge has a vast knowledge of the sector. He has good networks that keep him informed of the most up to date information.’

‘Alastair Keatinge is one of the most prominent figures in the charity legal sector.’

‘Alastair Keatinge is the ideal charity lawyer: sound, conscientious, reliable and a pleasure to deal with.’


Key clients

St Columba’s Hospice

Carnegie UK Trust

Crossroads Caring Scotland

Edinburgh University Students’ Association

The Aberdeen Islamic Charitable Trust

Lyme Disease GNHCT Scotland

The Clark Foundation for Legal Education

Scottish Documentary Institute

The Albion Trust

Bank of Scotland Foundation

Social Bite

Big Hearted Scotland

Work highlights

  • Restructuring of the Scottish Documentary Institute in order to allow new sources of funding to be targeted.
  • Setting up a new charity and transferring the SNU Trust’s assets into a new SCIO, whilst ensuring the charity is registered as a cross-border charity with the Office of the Scottish Regulator.
  • Establishing a new charity in Scotland on behalf of Lyme Disease GNHCT to increase its capacity to carry projects and raise the requisite funds.
  • Provided full contractual advice, governance and training to an independent provider of specialist palliative care in Scotland, located in a new £26m hospice building in Edinburgh.

MacRoberts LLP

MacRoberts LLP acts for a wide range of clients, including international charities, social enterprises, trusts and SCIOs, primarily advising on regulatory matters such as data protection, safeguarding and equal pay obligations. The team has further expertise with all contract related matters, and also regularly carries out data audits for clients. Practice head Valerie Surgenor is noted for her expertise advising charities on fundraising procedures and requirements and works regularly with the UK Fundraising Regulator. Senior solicitor Jozanne Bainbridge has extensive regulatory auditing and reporting experience and expertise in the area of governance.

Practice head(s):

Valerie Surgenor

Other key lawyers:

Jozanne Bainbridge


‘The practice offers practical and pragmatic advice.’

‘Valerie Surgenor is understated but hugely competent, knowledgeable, and pragmatic.’

Key clients

Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

Leeds Cares

Community Enterprise in Scotland / Social Enterprise World Forum

Coalition of Care Providers Scotland (CCPS)/ Social Work Scotland

Citizens Theatre

People’s Postcode Lottery

Scottish Opera


Dundee Blind & Partially Sighted Society

Forth Valley College

Work highlights

  • Carried out a full data protection audit for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, including data mapping and reporting of GDPR compliance.
  • Advised Community Enterprise in Scotland on corporate structural matters, commercial contracts and IP matters relating to the Social Enterprise World Forum in Edinburgh.
  • Provided People’s Postcode Trusts with advice on appointment, services and trade mark agreements and training in the areas of governance and GDPR.
  • Provided advice to the Dundee Blind & Partially Sighted Society arising as a result of a significant pension scheme liability, stemming from the client’s participation in the Tayside Pension fund within the Local Government Pension Scheme.

Shepherd and Wedderburn

Shepherd and Wedderburn advises major universities, charity trustees and public sector clients on a range of constitutional and governance related matters, including establishing new charities, revising trust structures, safeguarding issues and employment disputes. The team has particular strength in the higher education sector. Dual-qualified accredited specialist Chris McGill advises a diverse range of clients on governance and tax matters.

Practice head(s):

Malcolm Rust

Other key lawyers:

Chris McGill


‘The firm has a strong charities practice and makes sure to adapt the advice provided for our particular sector’.

‘Malcolm Rust has been helpful in the navigation of some of our more technical charity law queries’.

Key clients

Chaffinch Trust

The Royal Company of Merchants of the City of Edinburgh

University of Edinburgh

University of Glasgow

University of Aberdeen

The Trustees of the Children’s Heart Disease Trust

Work highlights

  • Advised The Royal Company of Merchants of the City of Edinburgh on the incorporation of eight trusts into a recipient charitable trust with wider purposes and a new constitution.
  • Advised The Chaffinch Trust on the establishment of a new and innovative charity aimed at ensuring greater co-operation and engagement in the operation of projects worldwide to support and encourage those disadvantaged because of poverty and lack of opportunity.
  • Advising the University of Edinburgh on its international operations and on senior appointments, including securing entry into the US for a UK national taking on a new regional director role in New York.
  • Providing full service legal service to multiple associated trusts, including governance, employment and tax advice.
  • Advising a major charity on proposals to redevelop its headquarters in Edinburgh.

Balfour+Manson LLP

Balfour+Manson LLP 's team, which is led by Alan Gilfillan, an accredited expert in charity law, focuses primarily on advising religious institutions on a range of contentious and non-contentious matters including reincorporation, disciplinary procedures and data protection. The team also regularly provide charities with advice on safeguarding issues and GDPR compliance, as well as acting for individuals or bodies seeking to gain SCIO incorporation. Gilfillan previously spent time as a secondee at the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, adding to his knowledge of SCIO compliance.

Practice head(s):

Alan Gilfillan

Harper Macleod LLP

Harper Macleod LLP's 'knowledgeable and responsive' team represents the interests of registered social landlords, often in major transactions for development purposes, and assists charities and trusts with constitutional matters, SCIO applications, compliance with OSCR regulations and governance reviews. Derek Hogg has substantial experience of advising charitable registered social landlords, while James McMorrow provides data protection advice to charities in light of GDPR.

Practice head(s):

Derek Hogg; James McMorrow


‘For the past 13 years Harper Macleod has provided pro bono representation and support to families with autistic children facing education tribunals. Recognising that a good education is crucial if autistic children are to grow and flourish, Harper Macleod have shared their expertise to ensure that autistic children in the UK are getting the best start in life.’

‘Harper Macleod works hard to make sure that they can support the full range of client needs with regular visits from specialists to allow face-to-face contact and relationship building as well as delivering the work.’

Key clients

retail TRUST

Kingdom Housing Association Limited

Cairn Housing Association Limited

National Autistic Society

Scottish Sports Futures

Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership

MCR Pathways

Shetland Arts Trust

Wheatley Housing Group Limited

Historic Environment Scotland

Work highlights

  • Acting for Kingdom Housing Association in a £85m private placement lending and security transaction, securing the development programme of over 1,100 homes.
  • Advising Cairn Housing Assocation on a £50m private placement lending and security transaction and advising on its constitutional partnership and preparations for GDPR.
  • Partnership with the National Autistic Society to provide free help, support and representation to families with autistic children to ensure they get the educational support they need and are entitled to.
  • Advising retailTRUST in relation to charity governance and data protection, in particular preparations for GDPR.
  • Providing corporate and commercial advice regarding contractual arrangements to MCR Pathways.

T C Young

T C Young's practice represents charitable housing authorities, trusts and not-for-profit bodies, advising on constitutional updates and restructurings, while assisting with the process of setting up SCIOs, handling asset transfers and advising on OSCR compliances. The team focuses in particular on the social housing sector, with practice head Mark Ewing acting as the sole adviser to the Scottish Federation of Housing Association. Ewing also acts for clients in the renewable energy sector, especially those investing in wind farms.

Practice head(s):

Mark Ewing


‘The firm has a detailed knowledge and understanding of the social housing sector in Scotland and the wide range of legal, regulatory and good practice requirements that apply to the sector. The services and advice and assistance provided are of a consistently high standard.’

‘One of Scotland’s marker leaders in the charities/social housing sector.’

‘Mark Ewing has a detailed knowledge and understanding of all aspects of charity law and associated regulatory requirements; an ability to clearly articulate, explain and clarify complex issues; and has a strong focus on and a positive approach to customer service.’

‘The team is very good at anticipating how changes in the legal system may affect specific clients.’

Key clients

Antonine Housing Association

Arran Development Trust

Corstorphine Community Centre

Erskine Hospital

Grail Movement Association

Scottish Federation of Housing Associations

Scouts Scotland

Tiree Community Development Trust

Turning Point Scotland

Work highlights

  • Advising Erskine Hospital on a review and its implementation which involved significant changes to the charity’s board reporting structure, succession planning and board recruitment.
  • Assisted Corstorphine Public Hall Company Limited to put in place a charity restructure, firstly by converting their current set up to a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO), and thereafter transferring to another SCIO.
  • Sole legal adviser to the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations in the development of the model constitution for charitable housing associations in Scotland, developed in association with the Scottish Housing Regulator, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator and the Financial Conduct Authority.
  • Prepared a bespoke SCIO constitution for The Grail Movement so that the charity could register with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) in Scotland.
  • Instructed by Antonine Housing Association to take forward a transfer of engagements to Caledonia Housing Association that included a transfer of staff and OSCR consent to wind up the operations of the original charitable vehicle.