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Voluntary sector proposes major revamp of charity law, 1st August 2000

The good work of Scottish voluntary organisations is being hampered by a disjointed legal structure, much of which is defined by a law created in 1601. Current laws are frustrating, say voluntary organisations who depend on the public's goodwill to survive. That's why the SCVO, in association with International Teledemocracy Centre (ITC), Napier University, today launched its interactive charity law website.

The website www.e-consultant.org.uk/charitylaw.htm has been created by ITC working with BT Scotland. It is an electronic consultation system for voluntary organisations across Scotland to give their views on the key issue of charity law reform. SCVO wants to encourage voluntary organisations to get involved in the debate about charity law reform, and enable organisations small and large to feed into the process of creating SCVO's response to the Scottish Charity Law Review Commission.

"As the umbrella body for the voluntary sector, it is important that we listen to the views of voluntary organisations before we start to offer solutions to the many questions surrounding Scottish charity law" said Martin Sime, director of SCVO. "Major reforms in charity law would allow the voluntary sector to flourish and live up to the ever-increasing expectations of government and the public. As well as our traditional methods of paper consultation and physical consultation meetings, this new website will offer an increasingly wired-up sector a real chance to get involved."

People entering the site will be able to have their say on-line about the key issues, as well as finding details of the current review and background information on charity law, with links to SCVO's policy website which contains more detailed information. Apart from the need for a modern definition of charity, issues already identified by the sector include:

All views entered onto the website will come before the working group which is pulling together SCVO's submission to the Review Commission. Ann Macintosh, director of ITC said:

"We are excited by this opportunity to give the voluntary sector a truly democratic voice in Scotland. We are working with government and leading organisations such as SCVO in developing e-democracy systems to enable more open, far reaching and effective government."

The website is also the cornerstone of consultation events which are taking place across Scotland at the end of August. At the end of each event, the key issues raised by participants will be entered onto the website to feed into the national discussion. This will culminate at SCVO's national charity law conference in Edinburgh on 7th September. Martin Sime continued:

"This will ensure that the sector could grow and retain its independence, while making sure it is accountable and has the public's trust. That is why SCVO has been calling urgently for reform throughout the past decade, and why we hope the sector will fully engage in the debate now."

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