The Scottish Parliament demonstrated its commitment to the promotion of high standards in public life by passing the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 as one of its earliest statutes.
The Act introduced a new ethical framework which requires Scottish Ministers to issue a Code of Conduct for Councillors and a Model Code of Conduct for members of the devolved public bodies listed in Schedule 3 to the Act. The Act also created the Standards Commission for Scotland and the post of the Chief Investigating Officer and together these elements work effectively to promote high standards in public life in Scotland.
The Chief Investigating Officer is responsible for investigating allegations of contraventions of the Codes and for reporting to the Commission the outcomes of investigations. In its adjudicatory role, the Commission considers cases where the Chief Investigating Officer has concluded that a breach of a Code has occurred and is empowered to direct the Chief Investigating Officer to undertake further investigations, hold a Hearing or take no action. Where the Commission decides to hold a Hearing and the Hearing Panel find that the councillor or member has breached the relevant Code, an appropriate sanction (as set out in Annex A) will be applied.
The Commission also has responsibility for issuing guidance to assist councillors and members in their understanding of and compliance with the Codes. Since the Codes of Conduct came into effect we have issued guidance notes and held a number of regional and national events for councillors and their advisers.
The Councillors' Code of Conduct has now been in force since May 2003. During 2009 the Scottish Government undertook a limited review of the Code to address two key areas: the implications for the Code of the legislative reform of the Scottish Planning System, which came into effect during 2009; and to review those areas of the Code which would benefit from clarification or reconsideration, drawing on experience gained in its application. To assist with this work the Scottish Government set up a review group whose members included the Standards Commission, the Chief Investigating Officer and representatives of Scottish local government. A public consultation was then carried out on a revised Code.
The Code has, therefore, been revised to reflect legislative changes relating to the planning regime and in light of experience gained in its first years of operation.
The Councillors' Code of Conduct continues to play a vital role in setting out, openly and clearly, the standards councillors must apply when undertaking their Council duties. It is vital that the Code continues to give assurance to the public that their elected members are acting in accordance with high ethical standards.
The Standards Commission looks forward to continuing to work with councillors and officers to secure the highest standards of conduct in public life.
Ian A Gordon OBE, QPM, LL.B (Hons)
December 2010The Standards Commission for Scotland
23 Walker Street
Tel: 0131 260 5368
Fax: 0131 220 5941
E-mail: email@example.comOffice of the Chief Investigating Officer
44 Drumsheugh Gardens
Tel: 0300 011 0550
Fax: 0131 220 5419