Civil Service Code - "outside of work and in dealings with one another": FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Information requested

You asked for : I wonder if you would be able to clarify when the Code applies "outside of work, and in dealings with one another…” does that mean it applies outside of work, but while a person is carrying out their role as a civil servant? For example, if a civil servant were at home but “on-call” for work-related matters, or at a work-related function but out-with the workplace, then the Code would apply, or does it mean the Code applies outside of work, even in one’s private life? For instance, does the Code apply to Civil Servants while they are not at work, not acting as a civil servant but acting as a private citizen?

I understood the Code to form part of all Civil Servants’ contracts of employment and therefore to be applicable when persons were at work, or carrying out functions in relation to their role as a civil servant only. I was under the impression the “core values” could not be intended to apply to the personal lives of civil servants, because that would cause a whole host of problems; for example, if a civil servant were to be dishonest with a friend or relative, they would be in breach of the code, even though it may be a trivial matter and nothing whatsoever to do with the person being a civil servant. You will be aware that paragraph 3 of the Code states, “as a civil servant you … are expected to carry out your role with dedication and a commitment to the Civil Service and its core values”. I can see no mention in the Code that would suggest that it applies in respect of other persons while a person is acting as a private citizen.


As previously stated whilst the main focus of the Code relates to the role of the civil servant in the workplace, it also covers behaviour outside of work and in dealings with one another which may impact on the perception of the individual’s integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality as required by the Code. A good example of this would be engaging in political activity in a personal capacity outside of work.

In that respect, a number of our HR conduct policies are underpinned by the Civil Service Code and give guidance to staff participating in outside activites in their personal capacity and the circumstances when permission must be sought and declared. These include:

1. Outside Activities

We recognise the potential benefits to be gained from colleagues participating in outside activities including but not exclusive to additional employment (including self-employment); career development initiatives involving transferable skills; or voluntary, community and charity work. They are generally permitted to engage in activities out with the duties of their role within the Scottish Government , however they need to be aware of the conduct rules that may apply and circumstances when permission must be sought and declared.

Permission is needed to take part in any outside activity that involves:

  • disclosure of official information
  • use of official experience

Activities for which they must seek authorisation include:

  • publications about official subjects
  • publication of personal memoirs
  • broadcasts and press interviews
  • speeches and lectures
  • attendance at outside conferences and seminars
  • participation in surveys and research projects by external parties
  • inventions

2. Political Activity

Civil servants owe their loyalty to the Crown, whose authority is exercised through the government of the day. Colleagues are therefore required to serve the government whatever its political persuasion.

For the Civil Service to serve successive governments, cabinet secretaries, ministers and the public, they must feel confident that civil servants’ personal views don’t affect their official duties.

The aim of having rules around political activities is to give colleagues the greatest possible freedom to participate in public affairs without infringing these fundamental principles.

The rules relate to political activities likely to give public expression to political views. They don’t apply to privately-held beliefs and opinions.

A copy of the full policy & guidance is attached in the covering email

3. Register of Interests

To ensure that there can be no suggestion of bias or the use of an official position to further personal interests colleagues must declare and register their interests . Dependant on their grade, information may only be registered where they or close family members have official dealings with the organisation and there is potential for a conflict of interest to arise. However senior civil servants are required to register all of the following:

  • business interests (including directorships), not only personal, but also of close family members
  • shareholdings or other securities/financial interests held by them or close members of their family
  • any other financial interest where there is the potential for a conflict of interest to arise as a result of their official position
  • private interests in organisations where there could be the potential for a conflict of interest to arise, for example membership of clubs, societies and other organisations

If there is a potential of a conflict of interest there are a range of actions that could be taken, including but not limited to:

  • delegating the affected colleague’s responsibilities to another
  • declaring any relevant interests at all meetings to which the interest relates
  • recording potential conflicts in the minutes of meetings
  • excluding the affected colleague from meetings (or parts of meetings) which discuss matters related to their interests
  • moving to another post in the Scottish Government where the conflict would not arise
  • disposing of the interest

4. Arrests and convictions

Colleagues must report the facts to HR as soon as possible if they are arrested and refused bail or charged with or convicted of any criminal offence. The outcome would be determined on a case by case basis taking into account the nature of the offence and where they work.

Only where there was factual evidence would we consider whether or not to take any action.

Colleages are encouraged to seek advice if they are in any doubt about undertaking any outside activities or if they become aware of any actions by others which they believe conflicts with the code.

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FOI-19-01886 - Information Released


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Phone: 0300 244 4000

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