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.
Registration of Interests
All devolved public bodies have a duty to set up, maintain and make available for public inspection a register of Board member interests. The Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 (Register of Interests) Regulations 2003, as amended, describe the detail and timescale for registering. The Model Code is very specific about the interests that you, as a Board member, must register and these include:
REGISTRATION OF INTERESTS
- Remuneration from employment, self-employment or directorships;
- Related undertakings i.e. certain unremunerated directorships;
- Contracts with the public body;
- Gifts and hospitality;
- Houses, land and buildings that you own or have an interest in which are of significance or relevance to, or bear upon the work and operation of, the public body;
- Shares and securities - holdings in a company or organisation which are of significance or relevance to, or bear upon the work and operation of, the public body; and
- Non-financial interests including membership or holding office in other public bodies, clubs, societies and organisations such as Trade Unions and voluntary organisations.
Your Code of Conduct will contain definitions of what is required under each of these categories and if you are in any doubt as to what you should or should not be registering, you should discuss this with the Standards Officer, the Chair and/or the Standards Commission.
The Register should also be available for inspection by the public (electronic and paper version). Public bodies should prepare a page for this purpose on their website and ensure that it is operational. The electronic version of the Register does not need to include any personal information that would compromise personal security although the full details would be made available for public inspection in hard copy.
Board members are required to keep their entries in the Register of Interests up-to-date and this involves notifying the Standards Officer of any new interest or change to an existing interest within one month of the change.
Declaration of Interests
In deciding whether to declare an interest, the key test is whether a member of the public, with knowledge of the relevant facts, would reasonably regard the interest as so significant that it is likely to prejudice your discussion or decision making in your role as a member of a public body.
If you have a financial, or non-financial, interest you must declare your interest at Board meetings and withdraw from decision-making on the basis of such an interest when it is appropriate to do so.
Non-Declaration of Interest
Where a material conflict of interest exists and a Board member does not declare their interest and withdraw, the Chair should take appropriate action to ensure that the Board (and the Board member concerned) is not compromised. In the event that a Board member refuses to leave the room when asked by the Chair to do so, the Chair should suspend the meeting and reconvene without the Board member concerned being present. Board members should bear in mind that any such action on their part may lead to an investigation by the Commissioner and the matter thereafter referred to the Standards Commission, which may apply a sanction in the event that it determines a breach of the Code of Conduct has occurred.
Frequent Declarations of Interest
If as a Board member you are frequently declaring interests at meetings, you should consider whether it is appropriate for you to continue in your role. In such circumstances, you may wish to discuss your continued appointment as a Board member with the Chair.
The Standards Commission does have the power to issue dispensation (where it is deemed to be in the public interest) to allow Board members to participate in a discussion and vote, despite the fact they have financial or non-financial interests which would normally prevent them from participating in discussion and voting.
In addition to general dispensations, individual applications for dispensations in exceptional circumstances can be made to the Standards Commission and may be granted where it is in the public interest to do so. However, Board members must not take part in any discussion or vote on a matter (in which they are conflicted) unless and until they have actually received a dispensation.
Email: Gordon Quinn
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