Publication - Advice and guidance

Good governance in the Scottish Government

Published: 10 Jun 2020
Communications and Ministerial Support Directorate
Part of:
Public sector

This booklet is a foundation for assisting and challenging approaches to assurance and accountability in support of the Scottish approach to government.

Good governance in the Scottish Government
Good Governance in the Scottish Government

Good Governance in the Scottish Government

Governance is the over-arching structure and strategy that provides accountability and direction, and that influences our behaviours and cultures.

Governance impacts everyone in their day-to-day jobs, whether we work as part of a team, purchase goods or services, manage people, or control budgets.

This is not just about what we do but how we do it, creating an environment where governance enables positive change and supports our strategic approach to the National Performance Framework.

Governance is about raising awareness and sharing information; taking responsibility and providing assurance to stakeholders; and improving our approaches, learning lessons for the future.

Accountability and Assurance in the Scottish Government

* the following Boards are formally Corporate Sub Boards: Constitution & Europe; Economy; Exchequer; Infrastructure & Investment; People; Place and Performance.

Good governance comprises six core principles, each with its supporting values:

  • Leadership: we focus on the Government's purpose to provide a clear vision and strategic direction to secure an effective and efficient approach based on outcomes.
  • Accountability: we comply with legislation, follow Parliamentary protocols and ensure the economic, efficient and effective use of all related resources.
  • Integrity: we promote the Civil Service Code and Values and demonstrate that through our behaviours.
  • Effectiveness: we maximise the skills and experience of staff; promote equality; challenge approaches and scrutinise performance.
  • Transparency: we take informed and open, evidenced-based decisions while managing risk.
  • Sustainability: we develop our capacity and the capability to take a long-term approach to our use of resources and outcomes.
six core principles

Accountable Officers have a responsibility for ensuring good governance and are personally answerable to the Scottish Parliament for the application of public funds.

We all have a part to play in supporting this role.

Accountable Officers

  • Answer to the Scottish Parliament for the application of public funds.
  • Give evidence before the Public Audit Committee about the expenditure and performance of respective areas of responsibility.
  • Ensure the propriety and regularity of the finances under their control - complying with relevant legislation and guidance issued by Ministers e.g. the Scottish Public Finance Manual.
  • Secure value for money: the economic, efficient and effective use of all resources.
  • Empower staff through effective management systems and provide support for undertaking designated roles.
  • Ensure risks and opportunities are identified, assessed and managed.
  • Ensure sponsored bodies have robust controls and reporting processes.

Non-Executive Directors

  • Provide effective challenge and support on performance with a focus on continuous improvement
  • Encourage an environment that values staff and supports innovation
  • Assess the quality of risk management arrangements
  • Proactively support the learning and sharing of risks and opportunities with peers across organisational boundaries
  • Scrutinise to ensure effective strategic and day-to-day financial planning and management
  • Challenge and support the work of internal and external audit
  • Review relevant performance reports, certificates of assurance and other assurance resources to ensure independent scrutiny of processes.

Corporate Boards

  • Provide leadership and management oversight in delivering the Programme for Government with the National Performance Framework at the heart of this.
  • Deliver effective use and stewardship of public money.
  • Seek assurances on the progress of organisational priorities.
  • Focus on outcomes through an assets based approach.
  • Develop organisational capability, wellbeing and resilience.
  • Review performance and improve systems of delivery.
  • Secure the appropriate management of risk across the organisation and arm's-length bodies.
  • Ensure the delivery of effective Project and Programme Management arrangements.


  • Support Accountable Officers in the delivery of their statutory responsibilities in the use of public funds.
  • Contribute to the Scottish Government's purpose by engaging with directorate planning processes to support the delivery of the Programme for Government and putting the National Performance Framework at the heart of this.
  • Act with integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality.
  • Adhere to relevant professional codes of conduct.
  • Contribute positively to a culture where all staff are valued and seek opportunities for improvement.
  • Champion finding new and better ways to achieve outcomes, engaging with corporate initiatives.
  • Apply Project and Programme Management principles to relevant work.
  • Report any wrongdoing in line with our whistle-blowing policy.