CHARITIES have been advised to have greater engagement with the public as it emerged Scotland 's generosity to charity has taken a dramatic drop.

The amount donated by Scottish people to charity in 2018 fell by nearly 30% (£349m) from a high of £1.2 billion in 2017 to £851m last year.

The Charities Aid Foundation’s annual Scotland Giving report, based on monthly polling over 2016, 2017 and 2018 found, however, that Scots were more generous that the UK as a whole.

In total, 76% of Scots reported that they had taken part in a charitable or social activity in 2018, 12 percentage points higher than the UK average of 64%.

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But Sir John Low, the CAF chief executive admitted there were were some "worrying trends" in giving money to charity, sponsoring friends, family or loved ones in charitable pursuits and the frequency with which we give, with the overall amount donated by Scots on the wane.

CAF said they had seen a "significant decline" in the percentage of individuals giving money to charity, both in terms of the last 12 months and the last four weeks.

Those deciding to make a donation in the last 12 months dropped from 65% to 61% between 2016 and 2018 and those having given in the previous four weeks dropped from 37% to 32% over the same period.

When it comes to sponsoring someone for charity there was a similar decline over the three years - with 37% giving in the last 12 months compared to 40% in 2016.

Meanwhile those saying they "strongly" or "tend to" trust charties in 2018 fell to 49% from 52% in 2016.

Susan Pinkney, the CAF's head of research said there is scope for charities across the country to use these figures as a catalyst for "greater engagement" with the Scottish people.

"This can also act as an opportunity to reassure them that their favourite charities are worth their time, effort and hard-earned money," she added.

While the reasons "are no doubt myriad" she pointed to a drop in trust in institutions and financial uncertainty over Brexit as being a major factor in the drop.

"There is no denying that the mood music and general tone of public discourse has become more divisive in the UK since the Brexit vote in 2016," she said.

"It is entirely possible that it has fed into a sense of uncertainty which may, in turn, affect giving decisions. That would echo the feelings of business in the country who have been calling for clarity above all else as they plan their future investment plans. Donating to charity is, of sorts, an investment in our wider community.

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"We are [also] hearing about a prevailing sense of a lack of trust in major institutions, including charities and that is no doubt playing a role in the data we are seeing. This view is backed up by other researchers and we are hearing a consistent message from the public on this topic.

"That said, the trust numbers for Scotland are slightly higher than the UK as a whole – hinting at a slightly higher level of resilience among Scotland’s charities."

She said CAF would be closely monitoring the percent of Scots who say they trust charities, as there has been a general decline across the UK.

"If people lack trust, that means they worry that their hard-earned money is being well-spent when entrusted to charities. This is a challenge that the charity sector needs to tackle head on and find way to inspire people to give and demonstrate to them that their money is making a real difference," she said.

"Additionally, and this perhaps merits new investigations from organisations such as ours, the changing face of our workforce may be a factor. With more and more people working in the ‘gig’ economy, going freelance or working on shorter contracts, that opportunity to sign up for regular giving is diminished."

Ms Pinkney added: "It is worth stressing though that the UK as a whole (including Scotland) remains one of the world’s most generous countries – something that we should rightly celebrate, although what this report is telling us is that it is not something we should take for granted."

CAF, which has been producing the UK Giving report since 2004, and has been tracking giving in the UK for several decades, is based on the testimony of 1,200 individuals in Scotland each year.

It found that the top three causes that people chose to support remained the same across the three years: children and young people, medical research and animal welfare.

It also found there was a decrease in the methods by which people are asked to give, with on-the-street and direct mail in particular having fallen back year on year.

In 2018 the proportion of people who said they had volunteered in Scotland over the previous four weeks was "significantly lower" at 8% compared to 11% in 2016.

And women in Scotland are are more likely than men to have volunteered, with 19% having done so in the last year compared to 13% of men.

Sir John Low added: "The report finds not only has the number of people giving gone down – with a corresponding lack in funds being raised – but the frequency with which people are giving is also in decline. Combined, this presents a worrying picture.

"People give because they are inspired, because they are touched by a charity’s work and because they know that their donations make a tangible difference. It rests with all of us to make the case on behalf of our charities, be they small groups gathering in a village hall to address a local need or a national organisation tackling widespread issues.

"In Scotland, charities provide invaluable services, but they also serve to bring our communities together in a bid to make the world a better place. In times of economic and political uncertainty, those bonds are more important than ever and are worth fighting to protect."