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.

Role and Responsibilities of the Minister

Every public body sponsored by the Scottish Government is expected to be aware of, and work within, a strategic and operational framework determined by the Scottish Ministers. Most fall within the portfolio of a specific Scottish Minister who will set overall policy aims, define expected outcomes arising from implementation of that policy and review progress against outcomes.

Public bodies are sometimes described as operating at 'arm's length' from Ministers but this does not mean that they are outwith Ministerial control. The Minister will decide how much independence and flexibility the public body should have, depending on its size, constitution, the nature of its functions and the legislation under which it operates.

Ministers may seek to increase their understanding of the public body through formal meetings with the public body's Chair and Board and other more informal events. The founding legislation for a public body may also give Ministers the power to issue a formal direction requiring it to take particular action. However, the use of such formal powers is extremely rare.

As Ministers are responsible to the Scottish Parliament, they may be asked at any time to attend Parliament or one of its Committees to answer questions from Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) about the activities of public bodies within their remit.


The Minister

  • Considers and approves the public body's strategic objectives and the policy and performance framework within which it operates;
  • Secures and approves the allocation of public funds for the public body;
  • Approves key documents such as the Framework Document and corporate plan;
  • Makes appointments to the Board;
  • Approves the terms, conditions and remuneration of the Chair and Board members;
  • Approves the Chief Executive's and staff pay remit in line with Scottish Government Pay Policy and lays accounts, together with the annual report, before Parliament;
  • Fulfils any responsibilities specified in the founding legislation, charter or articles of association, such as approving the appointment of the Chief Executive;
  • Issues letters of strategic guidance.


Email: Gordon Quinn

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