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Accountability and Standards

Councils provide a wide range of services to the people of Scotland. Both councils and individual councillors are accountable to their local electorates for the work they do.

Audit and Scrutiny

Councils' performance in the provision of these services is subject to audit and scrutiny in order to encourage good practice and improvement. Scrutiny is the process of examining the performance and operation of a public body. This helps to provide assurance about the quality of services and contributes to their improvement.

  • Internal scrutiny - Councils conduct internal scrutiny of their own activities through an audit or scrutiny committee which examines the performance and management of risk within the council. In some cases these committees are led by a non-councillor or an opposition member of the council.
  • External scrutiny - Councils are also subject to external scrutiny by a number of different external bodies. This external scrutiny is part of a wider scrutiny environment in Scotland.
Standards and conduct

As with those appointed to public bodies, councillors are required to adhere to certain standards of service. Councillors in Scotland are bound by a Code of Conduct. This sets out the principles and rules of conduct they are expected to uphold in the performance of their duties. The current Code of Conduct was published in December 2010, and is the third version of the Code, with earlier versions having been in force since May 2003. The Code, along with codes for others in public life, are an important part of the ethical framework for public bodies in Scotland.

Making a complaint

Councils are separate from the Scottish Government and are accountable to their electorates, not to Scottish Ministers. Their powers are set out in statute and as long as they act lawfully, it is up to each council how it manages its day to day business. The Scottish Government does not deal with complaints about councils or councillors, but there is a clear  process for making a complaint and several independent bodies which have statutory responsibility for overseeing the standards and conduct of councils and councillors.