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.

Annex A: Classification of Public Bodies

There are occasions where bodies carrying out public functions should operate more at 'arm's-length' from Government. This may be appropriate for a variety of reasons. This can be to provide independent advice and expertise on technical, scientific or other complex issues and take this outside the political arena, e.g. on ethical issues, or funding decisions. Tribunals and other quasi-judicial bodies are set up to meet specific requirements for separation of decision-making and appeals. Public bodies carry out a wide range of functions such as independent regulation, advice, investigation, adjudication, ombudsman services, appeal, funding, partnership, commercial and health services.

Such 'arm's-length bodies' focus in depth on clear and specific functions and purposes. These bodies have been established to meet particular needs and situations. This flexibility and responsiveness means that the landscape of public bodies is necessarily both complex and diverse.

The following provides a snapshot of the features of public bodies operating in Scotland.

Executive Agencies - although an integral part of the Scottish Government, Executive Agencies generally have a strong focus on the management and direct delivery of public services which do not require day-to-day ministerial oversight; in some cases they may also have responsibility for a discrete area of government policy. They are staffed by civil servants, including the Chief Executive who is directly accountable to Ministers. They are not statutory bodies but operate in accordance with a Framework Document approved by Ministers, which may be reviewed, amended or revoked at any time. This has the advantage that they can normally be set up by administrative action without the need for legislation.

Executive Non Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) - are not part of the Scottish Government or the Scottish Administration. They perform administrative, commercial, executive or regulatory functions on behalf of Government and operate within a framework of governance and accountability set by Ministers. They are funded by the Scottish Government through grant or grant-in-aid, but many generate additional income through provision of services. They are normally established by statute, employ staff (who are not civil servants) on their own terms and conditions subject to Scottish Public Sector Pay Policy, and manage their own budgets. They are accountable to a Board whose members are normally appointed by Ministers and publish their own annual report and accounts.

Advisory NDPBs - provide independent expert advice to Ministers and others or input into the policy-making process in relation to a particular subject. They are normally established by Ministers on a non-statutory basis, do not normally employ staff (administrative support is usually provided by the Scottish Government) and are not normally responsible for budgets or expenditure other than remuneration for Board members. They are accountable to a Board whose members are normally appointed by Ministers. Ministers are answerable to Parliament for the activities of the body and can dissolve the body at any time.

Tribunals - are established by statute and have specific responsibilities for prescribed judicial functions. They are not part of the court system and are independent of the Scottish Government. They have both specialist and lay members, do not employ staff and are not responsible for budgets or expenditure other than the remuneration of Tribunal members.

Non Ministerial Departments (NMDs) - are not part of the Scottish Government but are part of the Scottish Administration in their own right and staffed by civil servants. They are generally funded by Parliament and are required to publish their own annual report and accounts. They are directly accountable to the Scottish Parliament, not Ministers, for the discharge of their statutory functions.

Public Corporations - are industrial or commercial enterprises under Government control which recover more than 50% of their costs through fees charged for services provided to customers. They employ their own staff, who are not civil servants, manage their own budgets and report to a Board whose members are appointed by Ministers.

Health Bodies - currently comprise 14 territorial health boards, 8 special health boards and the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland (MWCS). With the exception of MWCS, health bodies are part of NHSScotland and provide healthcare services or management, technical or advisory services.

Parliamentary Commissions, Commissioners and Ombudsman - are typically responsible for safeguarding the rights of individuals, monitoring and reporting on the handling of complaints about public bodies, providing an adjudicatory role in disputes and reporting on the activities and conduct of public Boards and their members. Commission Members, Commissioners and Ombudsmen are appointed by the Parliamentary Corporation. They are accountable, and report directly, to the Scottish Parliament.

Other Significant Bodies - do not fall within the recognised categories of public bodies set out above but they have a direct relationship with either the Scottish Government or the Parliament and operate within a framework set by Ministers.


Email: Gordon Quinn

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