Byline: SIMON JOHNSON
SCOTLAND'S charity watchdog has told thousands of organisations to prove they provide a public benefit if they want to keep their lucrative tax breaks.
Universities, care homes, private schools and the Royal British Legion are among the bodies which have to show they deserve their charitable status.
Failure to meet the necessary criteria will mean they will be stripped of their right to tax relief, worth up to [pounds sterling]30million a year for universities alone.
The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) is to carry out a review of the country's 21,500 existing charities, starting next June.
The review will start with five types of charity where there is a 'risk' or ' uncertainty' over their status because some of their activities do not provide a public benefit.
The new test is contained in laws introduced by the Scottish parliament last year after scandals involving the Breast Cancer Research and Moonbeam charities.
Politicians were surprised by the scope of the review as it was thought the focus would be solely on private schools. SNP finance spokesman John Swinney warned that a 'considered approach' must be taken.
He said: 'If they do not do that, some organisations could lose the opportunity to operate charitably and Scotland would be poorer for that.'
Bodies such as the British Legion and students' unions, which run bars and other businesses, will have to prove their commercial activities do not conflict with their charitable status.
A spokesman for the British Legion in Scotland said: 'We are not just relaxed about this, we are proud of our record of providing benevolence in the community since the 1920s. …