Originally from Fauldhouse Charles went to Falla Hill Primary School and then on to Whitburn Academy. He was a member of 1st Fauldhouse Boys’ Brigade and played in Fauldhouse Miners’ Brass Band.
A history graduate from the University of Glasgow, he has worked as an accountant for the National Australia Bank; as a researcher in the Scottish Parliament; and as a consultant for a commercial public affairs firm. Charles currently works in advocacy and policy for a national environmental charity.
Between 2007 and 2012 Charles was elected to City of Edinburgh Council where he chaired the Administration group and served on the Planning Committee as well as the Transport, Environment and Infrastructure Committee and the Education Committee. He was also a member of the Lothian and Borders Police Board.
He is currently Chair of Scottish Environment LINK, the forum for Scotland's environmental and conservation charities, and is a former trustee of the Royal Lyceum Theatre. Charles also chairs both the Culture and the Equalities Trusts for the People’s Postcode Lottery. In his spare time he performs locally and abroad with an improv troupe and has appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe a number of times.
Charles has been the Scottish Liberal Democrat candidate for Livingston at every election since 2005, including the 2006 by-election after the death of Robin Cook.