The Councillors' Code of Conduct
Section 1 of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 requires the Scottish Ministers to issue a Code of Conduct for Councillors (the Code). The current version of the Code was originally issued in 2010 and amended in 2018. It can be found at: https://www.standardscommissionscotland.org.uk/uploads/files/1531127491CllrsCodeofConductJuly2018.pdf
The current version of the Code was originally issued following a limited review of the Code that the Scottish Government carried out in 2009. A further amendment was published in 2018 which addressed the specific issue of councillors' membership on regional transport partnerships.
The 2000 Act states that Ministers shall issue a councillors' code only after it has been laid before and approved by a resolution of the Scottish Parliament. The same applies to any revision or re-issue of the Code.
The aim of the Code is to set out clearly and openly the standards that councillors must comply with when carrying out their council duties. All local authority councillors in Scotland are obliged to comply with the Code and with any guidance on the Code issued by the Standards Commission for Scotland. The current guidance was issued in 2015 and can be found at: https://www.standardscommissionscotland.org.uk/uploads/files/1545151725181218CCfCouncillorsGuidanceDec2018.pdf
Purpose of this consultation
The Scottish Government considered that many developments have occurred over the last ten years since the Code was last substantially reviewed and it was important to take account of such changes and to provide users with the opportunity to comment on the review. We are looking to make the Code easier to understand, to take account of developments in our society such as the role of social media. We also aim to strengthen the Code to reinforce the importance of behaving in a respectful manner and to make it clear that bullying and harassment is completely unacceptable and should not be tolerated. We aim to produce a Code that is fit for purpose and will ensure the highest standards of conduct by our councillors to maintain and strengthen the trust of those they are elected to serve.
The proposal is to amend the Councillors' Code of Conduct to bring it up to date and make it more user friendly.
A copy of the Code is included below. The key changes to note are:
- A general rewrite changing the Code to the first person and adopting plain English wherever possible. This makes it easier to understand and encourages councillors to take ownership.
- A greater emphasis on addressing discrimination and unacceptable behaviour.
- Stronger rules around accepting gifts, both to protect councillors and to build confidence in their impartiality amongst the general public.
- A substantial rewrite of Section 5 establishing three clear and distinct stages to determine a declaration – Connection – Interest – Participation.
- Significantly liberalises the guidance/rules around being a council-appointed representative on an outside body. The exceptions to this are for quasi-judicial matters and other situations where such appointments would create a clear conflict of interest
- Makes more clear the rules around access and lobbying.
- Section 7 has been substantially reworked in order to provide a more generic approach that can cover all types of applications and decisions, and not be so heavily focussed on planning matters.
Standards Commission Guidance
Whilst not forming part of this consultation, the Standards Commission proposes to issue new guidance along with the revised Code. Details of this revised guidance will be available on the Commission's website.
Responding to this consultation
We are inviting responses to this consultation by 08 February 2020.
Please respond to this consultation using the Scottish Government's consultation hub, Citizen Space (http://consult.gov.scot ). Access and respond to this consultation online at https://consult.gov.scot/housing-and-social-justice/the-councillors-code-of-conduct. You can save and return to your responses while the consultation is still open. Please ensure that consultation responses are submitted before the closing date of 08 February 2020.
If you are unable to respond using our consultation hub, please complete and send the Respondent Information Form to:
Councillor Code of Conduct Consultation
Local Government Policy and Relationships
Local Government and Analytical Services Division
The Scottish Government
Area 3G North
Edinburgh. EH6 6QQ
Handling your response
If you respond using the consultation hub, you will be directed to the "About You" page before submitting your response. Please indicate how you wish your response to be handled and, in particular, whether you are content for your response to published. If you ask for your response not to be published, we will regard it as confidential, and we will treat it accordingly.
All respondents should be aware that the Scottish Government is subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and would therefore have to consider any request made to it under the Act for information relating to responses made to this consultation exercise.
If you are unable to respond via Citizen Space, please complete and return the Respondent Information Form included in this document.
Next steps in the process
Where respondents have given permission for their response to be made public, and after we have checked that they contain no potentially defamatory material, responses will be made available to the public at (http://consult.gov.scot ). If you use the consultation hub to respond, you will receive a copy of your response via email. Following the closing date, all responses will be analysed and considered along with any other available evidence to help us. Responses will be published where we have been given permission to do so. An analysis report will also be made available.
Comments and complaints
If you have any comments about how this consultation exercise has been conducted, please send them to the contact address above or to: CCCReview@gov.scot.
Scottish Government consultation process
Consultation is an essential part of the policymaking process. It gives us the opportunity to consider your opinion and expertise on a proposed area of work. You can find all our consultations online: (http://consult.gov.scot ). Each consultation details the issues under consideration, as well as a way for you to give us your views, either online, by email or by post.
Responses will be analysed and used as part of the decision making process, along with a range of other available information and evidence. We will publish a report of this analysis for every consultation. Depending on the nature of the consultation exercise the responses received may:
- indicate the need for policy development or review
- inform the development of a particular policy
- help decisions to be made between alternative policy proposals
- be used to finalise legislation before it is implemented
While details of particular circumstances described in a response to a consultation exercise may usefully inform the policy process, consultation exercises cannot address individual concerns and comments, which should be directed to the relevant public body.
Due to the current pandemic, Brexit negotiations and the fact that the current Scottish Parliament will require to close down next year to allow for the election of new MSPs it seems very likely that we will be unable to secure Parliamentary time for scrutiny and approval of the Code. If this is the case then the Scottish Government will take the required actions to ensure the Code and related Regulations are laid before a new Parliament at the earliest possible time.