This page covers questions raised around the proposal for a single charity or organisation for Quakers in Scotland (QiS) that have come up during consultation. More about QiS discussions and progress at QiS News. The questions are separated into those on the draft Governing Document (under continuing discussion in Feb/Mar 2022), and more general Qs. If your question isn't answered here, you might find it in FAQ on the OfS2 report. For more info or feedback, contact Coordinating Group members from your AM, listed at the foot of the QiS News page.
GOVERNING DOCUMENT QUESTIONS
Where does the content of the document come from?
The document is closely modelled on existing governing documents for the four Area Meetings in Scotland, with modifications to satisfy the requirements for a SCIO. We also used template documents from existing SCIOs and from Britain Yearly Meeting. The biggest difference from non-Quaker examples is the use of Quaker business methods for decisions, rather than voting. Please note that the document is being frequently updated and the latest version may not be on the website yet. Find a recent draft of the evolving governing document on the General Meeting page under Documents (right hand column).
How can I see our AM's current governing document?
Why a SCIO?
Our 6 current charities are all 'unincorporated'. We have been advised that a SCIO is best suited to our future needs. It simplifies ownership of property, employing staff, and gives more legal protection to Friends serving as trustees. At present individual trustees are legal owners of our property, and have legal liability for other matters.
Why doesn't it say more about how things would work?
Governing documents (constitutions) like this are very high level, saying little or nothing about how we run our affairs day to day. They must cover how we register and un-register members, how decisions are made, how we appoint trustees, and oversee administration. How we manage ways of working will be explained in Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs). We anticipate having a general MoU and a property MoU. Other details will be captured in the policies and procedures of the organisation, which are for Friends to discern in discussion with trustees.
Does it make clear enough how we are related to Quakers in Britain?
The following points refer to this: (3) Name of organisation; (4) Purposes - introductory paragraph and 4.2, 4.4, 4.11; (11) Membership - first sentence. The relationship will be essentially unchanged, as also alluded to in Q6 of General Questions below, or read a longer analysis.
How would we appoint trustees to the new charity?
GM has not decided who will be the initial trustees yet. It may decide that initially there should be representation from each area meeting. When the charity is fully operational we anticipate that Friends will want to achieve wide participation across meetings in Scotland. This can be detailed in the policies of the organisation. We are seeking guidance from OSCR as to how we might manage the transition of separate charities into one charity.
What would the relationship be between the trustees of the new body and BYM?
Essentially the same as the relationship of trustees of our existing AM trustees with BYM, but we've attached a longer answer under General, below (6th Q there), where the question extends to all Friends, not just the relationship between trustees.
Why are we being presented with only one option?
The Options for Scotland 2 (OfS2) group report considered a wide range of options, but recommended only one, that we create a single organisation. You can read options that were considered; tbut it is worth reading these in the context of the full OfS2 report that was published in March 2022. Details were emailed to all Friends in Scotland, and it was discussed at area meetings and General Meeting.
What does this mean for our local meeting?
Very few Friends should notice any difference in local meetings. If you have a meeting house, you will still need a local premises committee or group. Property cannot be managed remotely. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will describe who has responsibility for what at each meeting house.
What will happen to Area Meeting if it no longer holds property or employs anyone?
Many Friends value their AMs, and they can continue to meet with Friends from neighbouring local meetings (and probably we could still call these AMs) or in other interest groups, without the formal requirements of AM's current legal responsibilities. They needn't be regional; for example there could be a young persons meeting that extended across Scotland. They could have important functions - see for example the question below about membership.
Would local and area meetings have their own funds?
Local meetings and properties will still need to have funds. How we manage financial arrangements is being considered by the QiS-CG Finance group.
Membership is being held centrally; how can we manage membership processes as a single charity?
The governing document for the new charity stipulates that decision making can be delegated. How we handle membership is just one of many questions that will be for Friends to agree on. Options could include delegating decisions to Area Meetings or equivalent. The governing document has been worded to keep the options as open as possible until we have agreed what will work best, and includes the option to delegate membership matters if we choose to do so.
How would having a single organisation affect our relationship with BYM?
Things would remain broadly the same. There have been a number of detailed questions around this, some asked locally, others from different regions where similar things are being considered. Read a detailed response from Paul Parker and Lesley Richards.
This process feels rushed
General Meeting has been discussing the question since 1987, but the sense of urgency has increased as Area Meetings are finding it increasingly difficult to find individuals to serve as trustees and in other key roles, and regulatory requirements on charities like ours have increased. The recent timetable is: The ‘Options 1’ or OfS1 group listed (Feb 2022) ways in which AMs might work more closely together. Some actions were taken in response, but they were not felt to make big differences. General meeting therefore asked the OfS2 group to look at more radical options. Its report (March 2023) at https://quakerscotland.org/general-meeting/options-scotland/ofs2-report includes a list of all the options considered. It also points to the OfS1 report.
Similar pressures are being felt by AMs across the UK, and there are a number of projects like this one to create charities covering multiple AMs. Other charities have been doing similar things. A message to AMs from the GM clerk in February 2024 described the tension: "We are presently in a situation where there is both pressure to go ahead towards a single Quaker body/charity in order to assist AMs facing difficulties, and pressure not to go ahead before Friends are clear on how a new body would work". It described an evolutionary approach that AMs were asked to endorse.
What will it cost?
It has not been possible to assign costs yet. There would be some one-off legal costs. On the other hand we would hope for some ongoing savings from amalgamating affairs from 6 organisations to 1. Work to look at how we might best manage finance and property is going on now, areas in which we already employ staff. We may want to define a managerial role, but thoughts have not developed that far yet.
Details at the foot of the QiS News page