Ethical standards in public life - model code of conduct for board members: consultation analysis

An analysis of responses to the consultation on current proposals for a revised Model Code of Conduct for members of devolved public bodies.


The information provided in the consultation responses was generally of a good standard, detailed and balanced. This likely reflects the fact that most respondents were already users of the current Model Code – for example, as board members of public bodies – and were therefore well-placed to comment on the changes made in the revised Model Code. Among the respondents, there was a clear need to review the Model Code and a general sense that society and practice have changed since the Model Code was last updated in 2014.

Overall, the responses to the consultation indicate a good level of support for the changes proposed in the revised Model Code. Across all sections of the revised Model Code – from Section 1 to Annex A – there was a strong sense that the revised Model Code is clear, simple and easy to understand and particularly so when compared to the current Model Code. Moreover, many also felt that the changes made to the Model Code had helped to make it more helpful, practical and easy to apply to respondents’ everyday roles.

In particular, respondents felt that the revised Model Code demonstrates a strong commitment to principles of respect and courtesy while adopting a clear stance against bullying and harassment. Respondents also welcomed the strengthening of provisions in the Model Code relating to the use of social media. Another strength of the Model Code – as perceived by many respondents – was the increased use of a first person narrative, which was seen as being key in underlining a board member’s personal responsibility to carry out their duties with regard to the Model Code.

However, the use of the first person narrative was not without its criticisms, with some respondents expressing the view that such a narrative is unhelpful. Indeed, the consultation analysis unveiled a range of areas in which respondents felt the revised Model Code could be strengthened and/or changed, or where more clarity could be provided. Despite there being strong indications that the revised Model Code is clear and easy to understand, there was also a sense throughout the consultation responses that further clarity is required with regard to a range of issues. Particular aspects that respondents felt needed to be considered further included:

  • providing greater clarity on when an individual can reasonably be perceived to be acting as a board member and, as such, on when the provisions of the Model Code applied;
  • the provisions outlined in Paragraph 3.6 with regard to a board member’s role (or lack of it) with regard to operational management;
  • Paragraph 3.10 around the principle of collective decision-making;
  • Paragraph 5.5 in relation to members being removed from board meetings where they have declared an interest.

While there were a few areas of commonality, such as the above, respondents also raised a variety of more minor points of feedback. Examples of these included, but were by no means limited to: whistleblowing; when a conflict of interest requires a declaration; and in relation to respecting and complying with rulings from the Chair. Such divergence in the overall responses likely reflects the range of individuals and organisations who responded to the consultation and who use the Model Code in a variety of roles.

Next steps

We will carefully consider all of the suggestions provided from the responses received as we update the Model Code. Thereafter, we will take the actions required to ensure the Model Code is laid before the Scottish Parliament for scrutiny and approval at the earliest possible date.

Once the Model Code has been approved by the Scottish Parliament, we will arrange for its publication on the Scottish Government website and will take the required administrative actions to ensure each individual organisation that is required to produce a Code of Conduct based on the Model Code does so within an agreed timescale. The Standards Commission will also publish new guidance to help board members of public bodies to interpret the provisions within the Model Code of Conduct.



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