Scotland: Closer than you might think

Legacy Foresight has recently conducted a review of the Scottish legacy market, to understand what similarities and differences exist north and south of the border. Our latest recruit, Kathryn Horsley analysed the charity performance data collated for the project – here she discusses some of the emerging findings.

Looking at the headline numbers alone, we immediately see that Scotland lags behind its southern neighbours in terms of the number of legacies given. In Scotland 3.8% of deaths result in a charitable will, compared to 6.6% in England & Wales.

This begs two questions: why do so few Scottish deaths result in a charitable gift and how can this trend be influenced? Our research suggests that there are two main drivers of lower legacy giving in Scotland. Firstly, awareness of leaving a charitable donation is slightly lower. According to a recent survey for Remember A Charity, 10% of Scottish people were unaware that you could leave a charitable donation in your will – the highest reported level in the UK. That said, our own surveys (Populus, April & December 2013) show that four in ten Scots are open to the idea of leaving a charitable gift; and this level is very similar to the rest of the country.

Secondly because it is simply less affordable. Compared to England, fewer Scottish estates go to probate, less of those estates include a property and the prices of those properties are lower. For example, in 2014 the average Scottish property was worth £184,000 compared to £267,000 across the UK as a whole. Interestingly though, when Scottish people do leave a charitable gift in their will, it is on average worth more than in the UK, somewhat closing the gap between the two regions.

For charities, the good news is that lower legacy giving in Scotland is probably not due to an inherent cultural divide, but more due to circumstances and awareness … arguably both things that are quicker to change and easier to influence.

An ongoing assumption of this work, especially in light of the independence debate, was that Scottish people were more likely to support purely Scottish charities and that cross-border charities might struggle to gain traction north of the border. At present, this is certainly not the case – cross-border charities account for more than half of the combined income of the top 50 Scottish legacy charities, with Cancer Research UK standing out at 14%. There are significant purely-Scottish charities represented in the top 10 legacy charities, namely National Trust for Scotland, SSPCA and Erskine, but UK-wide charities should take heart in the fact that the Scottish market is open to cross-border causes.

Another factor of interest to all charities is the similarity in the priorities of Scottish legators when compared with their English and Welsh counterparts. Overall, the types of charities supported are very similar in both countries, with health, animal and development charities featuring strongly in each. There is, however, one striking difference between the two markets: health charities control a significantly larger share in Scotland, accounting for 45% of legacy income vs. only 38% across the UK as a whole.

There are a couple of reasons why this might be; firstly, Scottish people have a lower life expectancy and higher incidence of some diseases (especially heart and lung disease), so personal experience of illness and bereavement is higher.

Secondly, Scotland is perhaps a more traditional market in terms of legacy giving, and so we see stronger support for more mainstream cause areas compared to the newer types of cause area such as environment and development. Again, these trends may not be the permanent status quo; so as we see the Scottish/English health gap close and the Scottish legacy market develop, we may see a shift towards more contemporary causes, as in the UK as a whole.

Overall, it seems a positive picture for Scottish and cross-border charities alike. Our work suggests that the messages that appeal to English legators should also apply to Scottish people and the market is likely to develop similarly to the UK as a whole, albeit a little more slowly.

The Scottish Legacy Market review was funded by a group of 16 UK charities. We are grateful to them for letting us share some headline findings. For a full ranking of the top 50 Scottish legacy charities, click here.