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.

Fundamental Principles of Board Life

There are three fundamental principles of Board life to which all Board members (including the Chair) must adhere:

Principle 1 - Corporate Responsibility

While Board members must be ready to offer constructive challenge, they must also share collective responsibility for decisions taken by the Board as a whole. If they fundamentally disagree with the decision taken by the Board, they have the option of recording their concerns in the minutes. However, ultimately, they must either accept and support the collective decision of the Board - or resign. Board decisions should always comply with statute, Ministerial directions (where this is provided for in statute), Ministerial guidance and the objectives of the sponsor Directorate, as appropriate (noting of course that certain bodies are required to demonstrate independence in order to maintain credibility).

Principle 2 - Confidentiality

All Board members must respect the confidentiality of sensitive information held by the public body. This includes commercially sensitive information, personal information and information received in confidence by the organisation. It is also essential that debate of a confidential nature inside the Boardroom is not reported outside it.

Principle 3 - Conduct

Board members have a responsibility to set an example by demonstrating the highest standards of behaviour. It is important that nothing you do or say when you are acting as a Board member tarnishes in any way the reputation of the public body or the Board. If you have specific concerns about the manner in which the public body is being run, these should be raised with the Chair in the first instance. If you fail to achieve resolution with the Chair, it is open to you to take them to the relevant senior civil servant in the Scottish Government (usually a Director or Director-General) - but you should appreciate that this is a significant step.


Email: PublicBodiesUnitMailbox@gov.scot

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