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.

Introduction to Ethical Standards in Public Life

The Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 (Ethical Standards Act) introduced the power to specify the principles and rules that underpin public life in Scotland, putting ethical standards and probity at the heart of decision-making in public service. The principles set out below should be observed by all Board members of public bodies in Scotland.

Key Principles


You have a duty to uphold the law and act in accordance with the law and the public trust placed in you. You have a duty to act in the interests of the public body of which you are a member and in accordance with the core functions and duties of that body.


You have a duty to take decisions solely in terms of public interest. You must not act in order to gain financial or other material benefit for yourself, family or friends.


You must not place yourself under any financial, or other, obligation to any individual or organisation that might reasonably be thought to influence you in the performance of your duties.


You must make decisions solely on merit and in a way that is consistent with the functions of the public body when carrying out public business including making appointments, awarding contracts or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits.

Accountability and Stewardship

You are accountable for your decisions and actions to the public. You have a duty to consider issues on their merits, taking account of the views of others and must ensure that the public body uses its resources prudently and in accordance with the law.


You have a duty to be as open as possible about your decisions and actions, giving reasons for your decisions and restricting information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.


You have a duty to act honestly. You must declare any private interests relating to your public duties and take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.


You have a duty to promote and support these principles by leadership and example, and to maintain and strengthen the public's trust and confidence in the integrity of the public body and its members in conducting public business.


You must respect fellow members of your public body and employees of the body and the role they play, treating them with courtesy at all times. Similarly you must respect members of the public when performing duties as a member of your public body.

Board members should apply these principles in their dealings with fellow members of their public body, its employees and other stakeholders. Similarly Board members should also observe these principles in their dealings with the public when performing duties as a member of a public body.

The Ethical Standards Framework

The key elements of the ethical framework introduced by the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 are:

Through this ethical framework, the Scottish Ministers aim to ensure that Scottish public bodies and all who serve on them conduct their business in a way which merits and sustains public confidence.


Email: Gordon Quinn

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