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Ethical Standards in Public Life

What is the Ethical Standards in Public Life framework?

The Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 established a framework to ensure that the highest standards of behaviour were maintained by local authority councillors and members (such as board members) of certain public bodies.

  • It introduced Codes of Conduct which Councillors and Members must comply with at all times in their duties.
  • It established the Standards Commission for Scotland (the Standards Commission) to hold hearings into alleged breaches of the Codes.
  • It also established the office of the Chief Investigating Officer, whose role has now been taken over by the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland, (the CES) to receive and investigate complaints about non-compliance.

Who does the framework cover?

Councillors in all 32 local authorities across Scotland are covered by the ethical standards framework. In addition, the members (usually called 'board members' but sometimes called 'commissioner') of certain devolved public bodies are covered by the ethical standards framework. These bodies are listed in Schedule 3 of the 2000 Act and this list is under constant revision as bodies are created, abolished, or merged.

A full list of the public bodies covered by Ethical Standards Framework can be viewed

The individual members of these bodies are responsible for adhering to their codes of conduct and can be subject to investigation by the CES and, if found to have breached a requirement of the relevant code, may be called to a hearing carried out in public by the Standards Commission.

Part 4 of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. Scotland Act 2000 also makes provision for other public bodies to be included under the ethical standards framework. These are largely public bodies which spend little or no public money or whose members receive no remuneration.

As of April 2014 there were 6 bodies listed in terms of Part 4 of the Ethical Standards Act.

  • Architecture and Design Scotland
  • Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland
  • Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland
  • Scottish Advisory Committee on Distinction Awards
  • Scottish Law Commission and
  • Scottish Local Authorities Remuneration Committee (SLARC is currently in abeyance – so a new code of conduct for it will not be produced in the foreseeable future)

These Part 4 bodies, although responsible for adhering to their own codes of conduct, will not be subject to investigation by the CES nor subject to a hearing by the Standards Commission. This helps to ensure that the ethical standards framework will not be disproportionate in the use of public resources.

Further Information

Further information on the Ethical Standards in Public Life framework is available from the Scottish Government Local Government and the Scottish Government Public Bodies Unit.