We are testing a new beta website for gov.scot go to new site

Beta link

This content is not being updated. Get up-to-date information on Scottish Government action to support business from https://beta.gov.scot.

Voluntary Regulation

What is Voluntary Regulation?

Voluntary regulation is a mechanism that can be used within a regulatory framework as an alternative to statutory regulation, to achieve a particular outcome through a change in behaviour. 

It typically involves industry and/or professionals developing voluntary agreements or standards, pledges, codes of practice, certification and accreditation schemes, to regulate behaviour or standards to achieve a particular outcome.  Government involvement may vary from no involvement to the measure being Government sponsored.

Voluntary regulation provides an alternative to statutory regulation.  It can be a more agile form of regulation in that it can be put in place faster, can be more flexible and adaptable to introduce and update, and requires a commitment from those involved.


Non regulatory options should always be considered at the outset of any policy development and a Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment completed to ensure the costs and benefits of each option are fully considered and compared. Liaison with other departments is also recommended to ensure consistency in any cross-cutting policy areas.

The principles of better regulation (that it should be transparent, consistent, proportionate, targeted, and accountable) apply to all regulation – whether it be voluntary or statutory.

The Scottish Government supports the approach set out in the Scottish Retail Consortium’s Framework for Government Sponsored Voluntary Regulation which sets out the following principles:

  • An evidence based problem or objective
  • A clear outcome
  • A practical, proportionate and targeted proposal
  • A Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment
  • Monitoring and Review
  • Application of the Better Regulation Principles