On Board - A guide for Board Members of Public Bodies in Scotland (April 2015)

This Guide provides much of the basic information that a Board Member will need to understand their role as a member of the Board of a public body in Scotland.


Public bodies play an essential role in performing certain functions on behalf of Government. They allow the public sector to benefit from the skills, knowledge, expertise, experience, perspectives and commitment of the members who sit on their Boards and focus in depth on clear and specific functions and purposes.

Public bodies come in a variety of forms, depending on their functions and relationship with Scottish Ministers and/or the Scottish Parliament. Public bodies are set up for specific purposes and there is no set template of what a public body should look like. Annex A provides an overview of the classification of public bodies. This classification has important implications for accountability and reporting arrangements. Information on individual bodies and contact details are available from the National Public Bodies Directory.

This guidance provides the basic information that you will need to understand your role as a member of the Board of a public body in Scotland and to help make your time with the Board fulfilling and effective. It supplements the information contained in your letter of appointment which formally sets out your specific roles and responsibilities as a Board member.

This guidance is for all those involved in the Boards of our Non Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs). Due to the differing responsibilities of bodies, parts of the guidance may not be wholly appropriate for Board members of other public bodies. However Board members of other bodies may also find sections of the guidance helpful: the Chair or Chief Executive of your public body will be able to provide further advice.

All public bodies should have in place supportive guidance which reflects the specific nature of their work and the extent to which separate arrangements may apply to the work of the Board.

Induction and Training


When a new Board member joins a public body, they may not have had much direct experience of that body. Effective induction serves as a valuable source of information and should provide material on specific job requirements, roles, responsibilities, policies and purposes. This guidance provides the starting point of your induction into the public body that you have joined. You should also receive further induction guidance and training from your public body on a range of topics, including:

  • the structure, governing legislation and work of your public body and links with the sponsor Directorate in the Scottish Government
  • the Ethical Standards Framework and Code of Conduct for Board members
  • corporate roles and responsibilities as a Board member

Annex B provides a checklist of the types of induction guidance and training that may be available from your public body. You should refer to this checklist when discussing your induction requirements with the Chair and Chief Executive.

Key reference materials and contacts are listed under each of the main sections of this guidance. The main source of further information and guidance will be the public body that you have just joined, particularly the Chair and Chief Executive. Between them, they will be able to provide you with most of the advice and information that you are likely to need during your time as a Board member of a public body in Scotland.

This guidance has been produced in an interactive format to allow users to view documents referenced through the use of hyper-links. The guide will be kept under review to ensure that it continues to help promote best practice for Board members. The guide will not be produced in hard copy by the Scottish Government.


Email: Gordon Quinn

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