Ministerial appointments to public bodies: training pack for independent panel members

The recruitment process for many ministerial appointees is independently regulated by the Ethical Standards Commissioner, requiring compliance with the Commissioner’s 2022 Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies. This training pack is for independent panel members.

Appendix A

Board Member Core Skills Framework – Public Appointments


The Code of Practice for Public Appointments (2022) requires that appointments are made on merit. The principle of appointing on merit, requires that where one candidate best meets the selection criteria as set out in the person specification, then that candidate is recommended to Scottish Ministers for appointment.

What is the framework?

This framework is provided as a guide for Scottish Ministers and selection panels. The framework includes many of the core generic skills/personal qualities that may be sought as part of a public appointment round. Each of the skills/qualities is defined at three different levels and includes descriptors of the experience that applicants could demonstrate at each level – these are cumulative with each level building on the levels below. For example, if the desired level is set at level 3 then the applicant will be expected to demonstrate levels 1 and 2 as a matter of course. The panel should select the level which best describes the skills/personal qualities which are needed by the board and can adapt the descriptors – or add their own - in order to make them more specific and relevant. The skills and descriptors will form the basis of the information contained in the Person Specification (an example is provided in Appendix A).

How will the framework help panels?

  • saves time by providing descriptions of the most commonly used generic criteria
  • enables clarity and consistency by developing a common understanding of what each skill means
  • assists the panel in determining at what level the criteria should be met
  • provides a strong basis for better quality assessment and fairer decision making
  • enables more emphasis to be placed on defining priority criteria
  • provides better understanding for the applicant on what they need to demonstrate and this allows for a more demonstrably fair and open appointments process.

Setting criteria

In order to encourage the maximum degree of diversity within the applicant pool the criteria for appointment should be set at the minimum number and level required. Ministers should also consider defining 'priority' criteria, which should be weighted above the others, to ensure that the most able applicants who have the skills, knowledge, experience and other criteria that really matter to the board, are appointed. In practice, Ministers give broad direction to selection panels about the type of person that they wish to appoint. Selection panels then define that more tightly in the form of a person specification, using this framework for guidance, to ensure that the right outcome is achieved.

Examples of priority criteria

These should be weighted and priority given to those applicants who are most able to demonstrate them

Priority criteria may fall into the following categories:

  • Geographic – applicants must live or work in a specific area, there may be a need for the interests of specific communities to be represented on a board
  • Life experience – applicants who bring relevant first-hand life experience related to the work of the body. For example, homelessness, social exclusion, users of the services the body provides etc. This could also include lived or professional experience of disability, race or age etc.
  • Community experience – applicants who have been actively engaging with others within a community context. For example, this may include members of community organisations, NHS community health forums, school governors, local charities/fund raisers etc.
  • Work related experience/skills – applicants with specific work related skills, knowledge or experience. This may include IT, HR, Finance, customer service, risk management etc.
  • Technical/academic knowledge – applicants who bring technical knowledge or expertise. This may include knowledge in science, archaeology and architecture or in languages such as Gaelic etc.
  • Skills which are relevant to board priorities at a specific point in time – this may include skills which are relevant to a new organisation being formed, major change, where there are specific challenges/issues which need to be addressed e.g. COVID recovery, digital delivery, large capital projects etc.
  • General skills which need to be demonstrated at a higher than usual level – the nature, size or impact of the body may mean that one of the more general skills needs to be demonstrated at a high level.

The panel will need to determine how the priority criteria are described and at what level

Examples of essential criteria


Longer term planning / seeing the bigger picture

Level 1 - core

  • see the 'bigger picture' when considering issues and topics, although may not have had any direct experience of developing strategy
  • understands the importance of having a plan/strategy and what it might include/involve
  • looks ahead and considers issues/topics within different timeframes
  • identifies some relevant implications from what is being discussed, such as challenges and risks
  • sees beyond their own personal experience and gives consideration to other information and views

Level 2 - enhanced

  • direct experience of contributing to the development of a strategy or business plan
  • identifies a comprehensive range of priorities, challenges and risks within different timeframes and can evaluate their impact from a strategic perspective
  • has a clear informed picture of the long term aim of the organisation when considering issues
  • sees whole picture rather than the part they may feel most qualified or experienced in

Level 3 - adept

  • direct experience in successfully formulating strategy at a senior level within an organisation
  • takes account of what is happening within a sector, across different geographical regions and is aware of any political implications
  • keeps abreast of developments which may be relevant to or affect the organisation/board and its ability to meet its objectives and reviews the implications from a strategic perspective

Managing performance

Level 1 - core

  • an understanding of what the body/board are required to do and their responsibilities
  • an appreciation of the different roles and responsibilities of internal staff and non- executive board members
  • recognises the personal contribution they would be able to make to the success of the body/board

Level 2 - enhanced

  • experience of successfully managing the performance of a function or department in line with a defined plan
  • an understanding of the measures used to evaluate performance
  • an understanding of quality assurance and continuous improvement
  • experience of dealing effectively with poor performance

Level 3 - adept

  • experience of successfully implementing a plan/strategy and being accountable for the performance of a large department/function or of a whole organisation
  • understands how performance/service delivery needs to be managed within a large department/function or organisation
  • evidence of improving the performance of a large department/function or of a whole organisation

Change Management

Level 1 - core

  • personal experience of change - understanding something about how it should be implemented and the critical factors for success

Level 2 – enhanced

  • direct experience of successfully managing change
  • an understanding of what is required to support change
  • an understanding of why change might not work and be able to put forward ideas on how proposals could be revised to be successful

Level 3 – adept

  • direct responsibility for successfully implementing change within a large department/function or organisation
  • substantial involvement in defining successful change programmes or activities
  • an in depth understanding of why culture change might be important
  • experience of putting in place policies to support change

Analysis and decision making

Level 1 - core

  • using information which is available to reach conclusions
  • able to explain how conclusions have been reached
  • identifying some of the implications associated with what they are considering – priorities, risks, opportunities etc.
  • recognising when information is limited and where more information might be needed
  • being able to balance a number of different considerations

Level 2 - enhanced

  • recognises the information which is needed to make the decision
  • sound evaluation of the information with a good range of conclusions being reached, which are clearly explained
  • comfortable working with both numerical and written data
  • making decisions which have had a positive impact at departmental, functional or organisational level
  • using 'hard' evidence as well as seeking the views of others
  • able to make decisions when the information available is complicated and made up of several components which have to be analysed and assessed and may contain conflicting information or indicators
  • thinking through the implications of decisions before coming to a final position

Level 3 - adept

  • understands the decision making process at a relatively senior level
  • comfortable in the analysis of highly complex information where critical/important decisions are being made
  • understands the wider strategic environment and takes account of this when making decisions
  • interrogates the information and recognises the impact/implications of different elements, taking account of this in the decisions which are made
  • accuracy and sound judgement in the decisions which are made
  • comfortable in making reasoned judgements where extensive evidence might not be available

Constructive and supportive challenge

Level 1 - core

  • being confident in questioning proposals and debating issues
  • putting forward their views in an objective way, not being too dogmatic about their own perspective
  • helping others to consider their own position in a non-confrontational way

Level 2 – enhanced

  • direct evidence of challenging effectively within a diverse team or committee situation
  • evidence of where challenge has changed the views of others and influenced decisions without causing rancour or resentment
  • questioning shows good level of understanding of organisational and other issues that have led people to form their views

Level 3 – adept

  • evidence of successfully challenging the views of others within a senior management or board setting
  • able to demonstrate where the impact of their personal challenge on decisions has led to a positive change in the aims/objectives of organisation or within major policy areas
  • can evidence where an in-depth understanding of issues and others' perspectives has enabled high level questioning of proposals

Communication and influencing

Level 1 - core

  • being focussed and succinct in their communication
  • active listening – showing people that they are taking account of what is being said
  • Confident in expressing views and opinions in a group setting
  • satisfactory written skills, appropriate to the requirements of the role

Level 2 – enhanced

  • being persuasive, able to influence within a committee/meeting setting or perhaps other stakeholders
  • an understanding of the need for a flexible influencing style
  • being engaging and enthusiastic
  • Good written skills
  • able to adapt their style appropriately for different audiences

Level 3 – adept

  • evidence of effectively representing/ promoting the organisation to a wide range of stakeholders, including politicians and the media – being an ambassador
  • able to demonstrate where they have successfully influenced senior level colleagues and stakeholders
  • Highly persuasive within a senior group or in selling the objectives/benefits to a wide range of stakeholders
  • Confident and engenders respect in varied situations

Working co-operatively and collaboratively

Level 1 – core

  • appreciating the knowledge/skills of colleagues
  • supporting colleagues whenever possible
  • sharing knowledge at every opportunity
  • showing respect for colleagues and stakeholders
  • striving to achieve consensus
  • able to accept a consensus decision even if it goes against a personal view

Level 2 – enhanced

  • working with colleagues to deliver objectives
  • actively seeks out the views of colleagues
  • showing enthusiasm in working with colleagues on a task which might not have direct benefit for their own role
  • prepared to take on a task or role for the 'good of the organisation'
  • seeking opportunities to build constructive relationships within the organisation

Level 3 – adept

  • working with different organisations and stakeholders to deliver objectives
  • building strong relationships with 'partner' organisations and works with them on an 'equal' basis
  • Influencing colleagues to help reach consensus
  • being non territorial – able to be objective and impartial in doing what is best for the organisation

Leading the Board

  • provides clear focus in ensuring that the body/organisation achieves its objectives
  • successful in encouraging a group to work collaboratively together and to reach compromise and consensus
  • enables all group members to make an effective contribution
  • able to stand back, set aside personal views and listen objectively to others
  • appreciates the need to be challenged and to take account of alternative views in the decisions being taken
  • able to make difficult decisions
  • excellent communicating and influencing skills, able to inspire others and gain respect
  • committed to equality of opportunity and to developing and maintaining a diverse board


(as an alternative to including this criterion in the person specification, panels may want to combine/ include some of the indicators with 'Managing Performance')

Level 1 – core

  • understands what governance is and be able to define this in very broad terms but no need for any direct experience
  • appreciate the board's role in ensuring effective governance

Level 2 – enhanced

  • experience of fiscal/legal processes/procedures
  • experience of ensuring effective governance within the public or private sector or through involvement within a charity or as a member of a committee

Level 3 – adept

  • direct experience of ensuring effective governance at senior management or board level
  • able to articulate what board responsibilities are from a fiscal and legal perspective and can demonstrate direct involvement in implementation of good governance principles
  • an understanding of audit and risk management and be able to demonstrate effective practical application of that understanding
  • held a specific post related to governance

Personal commitment

Some of the fit and proper person test. Demonstrating enthusiasm/interest in the body, having the time available, evidence of being prepared etc.

In most research it is considered important for a board member to be prepared and to give adequate time to the role – this could also be legitimately included. These are things that could be included in a 'presentation' or a personal statement in an application form.

Some suggested descriptors are as follows:

  • able to demonstrate interest and enthusiasm in the body/organisation and what it is striving to achieve
  • able to devote sufficient time to being a member of a group/team
  • being sufficiently organised and prepared to make an effective contribution to a group/team

(much of the above can be tested via preparation for a practical exercise. If people, for example, don't complete any advance preparation suggested by the panel for an assessment exercise and this is clearly evident in their performance in the exercise then they will be deemed not to have demonstrated the required commitment)



Back to top