A lack of people willing to sit on the boards of charities is a 'major threat' to the sector, according to an expert.

Recruiting trustees with the skills and time to handle an increasingly complex role is a challenge for many charities, but a lack of youth and diversity on boards is also becoming a critical problem.

The average age of a charity Trustee in the UK is 57, although there is evidence that suggests it is even higher in Scotland

Business lawyers Lindsays say there is a need for younger trustees, while many existing trustees also lack understanding of their legal role and responsibilities.

Speaking during Trustees Week, an annual week to celebrate the work of trustees, Alastair Keatinge, partner in Charity Law at Lindsays, said a lack of understanding of the legal importance and obligations of the job, and a lack of youth and diversity in trustees and would-be trustees was a significant issue.

He said: “Trustees play a critical role in Scotland’s charities, proving hands-on and strategic help, but also performing an important legal role for the charity.

"It’s a hugely rewarding role for an individual, but also a hugely important role for the day-to-day running of a charity."

“However,i t is no exaggeration to say that recruitment of trustees is a major threat. There are two primary issues - that trustees tend to be older people, and that many trustees and charities are insufficiently aware of the obligations associated with the role."

Josh Littlejohn, Trustee and co-founder of homelessness charity Social Bite said it was vital those involved in running charities are able to recruit trustees who are equipped for the task: "Social bite has always trited to do things differently and we have grown very quickly," he said. "For that reason it's important our trustees are sure-footed about heir legal obligations and about governance arrangements."

Charities cannot function well without good trustees, Mr Keatinge added.

He urged employers to do more to encourage their staff to take on the important and rewarding role. Between them, 25 Lindsays staff support around 50 charities as Trustees, Board Members and Chairs.

“Employers have a role to play here, both to encourage their staff to become trustees, and to ensure they have the time to become adequately trained to do so," he said.