Handling of harassment complaints

Scottish Government sets out implementation plan.

The Scottish Government will learn from its mistakes and put the interests of those making complaints at the heart of its plan to improve the handling of future issues, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged today. 

The First Minister said the Scottish Government’s aim was to “embed a culture where bullying and harassment is not tolerated and where there is trust in how matters will be handled if things go wrong” as she set out a comprehensive plan to respond to three key reports on complaints handling.  

The plan is part of a single formal response to the reports from Laura Dunlop QC; James Hamilton and the Scottish Parliament’s Committee on harassment complaints which covered various aspects of the Scottish Government’s complaints procedure and associated issues. 

The new measures confirmed in the plan include:

  • An external, independent procedure to oversee formal complaints about former and current ministers’ behaviour
  • A Propriety and Ethics team to ensure the highest standards of propriety and integrity across the civil service in Scotland
  • Taking action to improve how we use, store and retrieve information and records, learning the lessons from our internal review of information governance

The response confirms the Scottish Government will report progress to parliament by the end of 2021.  This work will continue to be informed by engagement with trade unions and staff, including those with lived experiences of bullying and harassment.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“At the heart of the three reports are the complaints from two women who spoke of unacceptable behaviour in the course of performing their duties as civil servants. These complaints could not be ignored. Everyone should be able to expect a respectful and safe working environment. This is both a legal right and core to the values of the organisation.

“Our goal is to embed a culture where bullying and harassment is not tolerated and where there is trust in how matters will be handled if things go wrong. This work is informed by engagement with our recognised trade unions and by staff, including those with lived experiences of bullying and harassment.”

“We are determined to learn from and apply the insights from these reports to build a culture in Government where concerns are addressed early, and where all those involved with a complaint have confidence and can engage constructively and fairly in the process.”

Download the response: handling of harassment complaints


Today the Scottish Government has published its formal response to three reports published in March 2021:  Laura Dunlop QC’s review of the procedure for handling harassment complaints against former or current ministers, James Hamilton’s independent report on the First Minister’s self-referral under the Scottish Ministerial Code, and the report from the Committee on the Scottish Government’s Handling of Harassment Complaints (SGHHC).

The Government has published this following a commitment from the Deputy First Minister on the publication of the report by Laura Dunlop QC on 16 March, the response published today sets out an implementation plan that draws on the lessons learned from the three reports, as well as the Scottish Government’s own internal learning.

Alongside this response, the government is proactively publishing the outcomes of two internal initiatives:


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