Question mark over STEPAL’s charitable status

Concerns were raised about STEPAL's charity status and its qualification for Gift Aid.
Concerns were raised about STEPAL's charity status and its qualification for Gift Aid.

Scottish charity regulators are conducting an inquiry into environmental charity STEPAL.

Charity regulator OSCR confirmed this week that the organisation had received a complaint about the St Andrews Environmental Protection Assocation Ltd (STEPAL) and was conducting an inquiry.

A spokesman for the organisation would give no further details, but indicated it was hoped that the inquiry would be closed soon. However, STEPAL director Lindsay Matheson said he had no knowledge of the complaint or inquiry, and no further comment was made by the charity.

Concerns have been raised about STEPAL’s charitable status and its qualification to claim Gift Aid, since the status was achieved last year. Abbreviated accounts lodged at Companies House by STEPAL show that the organisation had just £6211 in the bank in June last year, with liabilities of almost £12,000. Mary Jack, STEPAL chairman, declined to reveal the charity’s full accounts, telling the Citizen: “The next set of accounts will be filed in accordance with Companies House procedures as required.”

STEPAL was established by three former teachers to fight plans to site the new Madras College at Pipeland, and has fought against the decision through the courts, most recently winning a Court of Session action.

Local Fife Councillor Brian Thomson was critical of STEPAL’s charitable status: “It’s surprising that an organisation that’s been set up to block the construction of a desperately needed new secondary school has been granted such status,” he said, describing STEPAL as: “a ‘charity’ which wishes to advance environmental protection/improvement that will benefit young people, but wishes to block the development of a desperately needed new school.”