Between 12 December 2016 and 20 March 2017, the Scottish Government undertook a public consultation on making amendments to sections 5 and 7 of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct after concerns had been raised that the Code may hinder the statutory function of Regional Transport Partnerships. This report presents the findings of an analysis of the responses received.
Section 1 of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc (Scotland) Act 2000 requires the Scottish Ministers to issue a code of conduct for councillors. All local authority councillors in Scotland are obliged to comply with the Code and any guidance on the Code issued by the Standards Commission for Scotland. The Code prevents a councillor from taking part in Council meetings and sit on the board of an external body where there might be a conflict of interest.
Exclusions to this can apply where the councillor has been appointed to the board or approved by their Council, but this exclusion does not currently apply in quasi-judicial or regulatory matters. The consultation sought views on the proposal to make amendments to extend the exclusions to also cover such matters, limited in application to Regional Transport Partnerships or to apply to all public bodies.
A total of 38 responses were received from a mix of local authorities; regional transport partnerships; other public bodies and individuals.
Key messages from the analysis include:
• Local authorities and Regional Transport Partnerships (RTPs) tended to favour an amendment to make a specific exclusion for RTPs. Opinions of individuals were more mixed.
• Support was mixed for extending an exclusion to include all public bodies.
• A key concern raised against making an amendment was about reducing public trust in Council decision making and making it open to fraud. Also, that it was possible to operate effectively with the Code as it was currently worded, deciding on a case by case basis what was appropriate.