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Charity Collections in Scotland

 Charity Collections in Scotland

You need a permit for public charitable collections - collections of money held in a public place, or carried out by visits from place to place:

  • a public place is anywhere to which the public have unrestricted access. This does not just mean the street - but also doorways and entrances to supermarkets and pubs, for example, and access common to a group of houses or flats, like courtyards or passageways
  • visits from place to place include house-to-house collections, pub collections, and collections from business premises
  • a permit is not needed for collections which take place entirely on private premises - like within a supermarket. But if you are going to collect in several shops, even in a privately owned shopping centre, then this could be regarded as visiting from place to place for which you would need a permit.

Nor is a permit needed for:

  • a collection box kept on the counter of a shop, or bar, for example, or in any other fixed position without collectors present
  • collections held during public meetings
  • collecting goods for charity shops, say, or jumble sales.

If you're in any doubt whether you need a permit, then it's best to check. Remember too that even if you don't need a permit you want people to feel confident about giving money for your charity.  So it makes good sense to follow similar procedures to those required for public charitable collections.


Collections can be for the benefit of charitable, benevolent or philanthropic purposes - and it is not therefore compulsory to be a registered charity to hold a collection. In most cases you will need to apply to your local council for a permit - and which is free of charge. You must apply for a permit at least a month before your collection is due to take place. But it is worth contacting your local council well in advance as there may be other collections planned for the same day - and to find out about the application procedures, and any special policies they may have. A member of your group has to act as the organiser of the collection, and is responsible for complying with all the regulations, or for ensuring that someone appointed as agent does so. Charities which operate throughout Scotland can apply to the Secretary of State for exemption from local council permits but usually still have to inform each local council of their plans to hold a collection.


no-one under 14 years old can be a collector in a street collection; or under 16 for a collection by visits from place to place. Collectors must be fit and proper persons. Every collector has to be issued with a certificate of authority signed by the organiser (or agent) and also by the collector which includes:

  • the organiser's name and address, and the agent's, if there is one
  • the collector's name and addresst
  • the name of the organisation or fund for which the collection is being made
  • the area, and the period of time, in which the collector is authorised to collect
  • every collector also has to wear a badge with the name of the organisation or fund which is to benefit from the collection

If you are using collection boxes or buckets, these must:
be closed and sealed so that they cannot be opened without breaking the seal
have labels - or printing on the box itself - which shows prominently the name of the organisation or fund benefitting from the collection
be numbered consecutively - and you must keep a record of which boxes have been allocated to which collectors

You can  use specially printed envelopes for collections and which the person giving must be able to seal after making their contribution. You must keep a record of how many are issued to each collector.

Accounting for the money collected:  There are detailed regulations which in brief mean that:

  • collectors must return all boxes, buckets or envelopes unopened to the organiser or agent
  • the organiser (or agent) has to open these one-by-one in the presence of another person, and record the amount on a list against the number of each collection box or bucket; or the number of envelopes returned by the collector and the total amount of money in them. (Alternatively, the collection boxes, buckets or envelopes may be taken unopened to the bank - and counted and recorded there.) 
  • the organiser has to submit accounts within one month to the authority which issued the permit and make a summary available for public inspection, possibly in a local newspaper.

The local council can attach conditions to your permit - and different councils may have different policies about the times that collections can take place, for example, or the type of collection boxes you can use. You need to check.

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