On Board: a guide for members of management advisory boards

This guidance is for all those appointed by the Chief Executive to be a member of management advisory boards.


Public bodies play an essential role in performing certain functions on behalf of, or alongside 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.

The role of members of Management Advisory Boards is different to that of members of Non Departmental Public Bodies ( NDPBs) and other bodies with statutory Boards. Management Advisory Board members are appointed to assist the body deliver its functions, to provide strategic advice and support to the Chief Executive and to offer constructive challenge. Such members are appointed to act in a purely advisory capacity and do not have any formal decision-making role.

This guidance is for all those appointed by the Chief Executive to be Members of Management Advisory Boards.

It is good practice to include external Non-Executive members on Management Advisory Boards of Executive Agencies. However, there may be some organisations for which external membership could be inappropriate, such as those where the Chief Executive believes the body's activities are effectively directed by Ministers. When going down this route the presence of external members on the body's Audit and Risk Committee provides appropriate independent scrutiny and challenge.

Separate guidance has been prepared for Members of Statutory Boards.

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 (if appropriate), the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament
  • the Code of Conduct prepared by your public body for external Non-Executive members which will highlight the nine key principles that underpin public life in Scotland
  • roles and responsibilities as a Board member

These Non-Executive Board member roles are different to serving on other public bodies. Even for experienced Board members, an induction discussion with an existing member of an Advisory Board may be helpful as part of the induction process.

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 Chief Executive.

Further Guidance

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 Chief Executive. 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 member of a Management Advisory Board.

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.


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