On Board: A Guide for Members of Statutory Boards

Guidance for all those appointed under statute to be members of the boards of public bodies in Scotland.


Members who sit on the Boards of public bodies play an essential role in performing certain functions on behalf of, or alongside Government. They allow the public sector to benefit from their skills, knowledge, and experience.

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.

This guidance provides the basic information that you will need to understand your role as a member of the Board of a public body in Scotland and to help make your time with the Board fulfilling and effective. It supplements the information contained in your letter of appointment which formally sets out your specific roles and responsibilities as a Board member.

This guidance is for all those appointed under statute to be members of the Boards of our public bodies, primarily Non Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) and Public Corporations (which are "sponsored" by the Scottish Government and whose Boards are accountable to Ministers for the discharge of their statutory functions) and most Non- Ministerial Offices (whose Boards are directly accountable to the Scottish Parliament, rather than Ministers, for their statutory functions). Where relevant, the guide distinguishes between "sponsored" bodies and Non- Ministerial Offices.

As Management Advisory Boards in Executive Agencies and some Non-Ministerial Offices have different responsibilities to statutory Boards, separate guidance has been prepared for members of these 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. The Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies in Scotland requires that applicants will be provided with information on the development and support that they will receive if they are successfully appointed. 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 Ethical Standards Framework and Code of Conduct for Board members
  • corporate roles and responsibilities as a Board member

As required by the Code of Practice, new Board members will be asked to provide feedback on their induction and training.

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 Chair and Chief Executive.

The Scottish Government provides further guidance on the Governance Hub. Board Members can request access to this by emailing the Public Bodies Support Unit: PublicBodiesUnitMailbox@gov.scot.

If you are a member of a NHS Board you may also find Turas Learn useful, as well as the Blueprint for Good Governance as set out by the Scottish Government for NHS Boards.

Scottish Ministers, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Administration

Throughout this guidance you will see references to Scottish Ministers, the Scottish Administration or the Scottish Government. The diagram at Annex C explains the organisation of central government in Scotland.


Email: PublicBodiesUnitMailbox@gov.scot

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