Public appointments: guide

A guide to public appointments including information on how to apply.

This document is part of a collection


About public appointments

A public appointment is, typically, a Ministerial appointment to the Board of a public body.

Public bodies deliver the priorities of Ministers or the Scottish Parliament, through the delivery or scrutiny of services or by providing impartial, expert advice on a specific topic.

Information on Scotland’s public bodies can be found in the National Public Bodies Directory.

More information on what a public appointment is can be found in this video.

Role of the Board

Public bodies play an essential role in performing certain functions on behalf of, or alongside Government. The public sector benefits from the skills, knowledge, expertise, experience, perspectives and commitment of board members. 

The four main functions of the Board are: 

  • to ensure that the public body delivers its functions in accordance with Ministers’ policies and priorities
  • to provide strategic leadership
  • to ensure financial stewardship
  • to hold the Chief Executive and senior management team to account

Public body board’s have a corporate (collective) responsibility, under the leadership of the Chair, for the following:

  • taking forward the strategic aims and objectives for the body agreed by the Scottish Ministers
  • determining the steps needed to deal with changes which are likely to impact on the strategic aims and objectives of the body or on the attainability of its operational targets
  • promoting the efficient, economic and effective use of staff and other resources by the public body consistent with the principles of Best Value, including, where appropriate, participation in shared services and/or collaborative service delivery arrangements
  • ensuring that effective arrangements are in place to provide assurance on risk management, governance and internal control
  • taking into account relevant guidance issued by Scottish Ministers
  • receiving and reviewing regularly financial information concerning the management and performance of the public body and being informed in a timely manner about any concerns regarding the activities of the public body
  • ensuring systems are in place to enable early notification to be provided to the Scottish Government about emerging issues which will impact on the operation or reputation of the public body
  • appointing (with the approval of the Scottish Ministers) the public body Chief Executive and, in consultation with the Scottish Ministers, setting appropriate performance objectives and remuneration terms linked to these objectives which give due weight to the proper management and use of resources within the stewardship of the public body and the delivery of outcomes
  • demonstrating high standards of corporate governance at all times, including openness and transparency in its decision-making

What public appointees do

The role of a public appointee will vary between boards, generally they may be asked to:

  • provide direction and leadership - setting the public body’s strategy and agreeing business plans to deliver that strategy
  • hold senior staff and managers to account on how the body is managed, how business plans are delivered and how the budget is spent
  • attend Board meetings on a regular basis, being well prepared by reading relevant papers in advance
  • represent the work of the organisation to key stakeholders and the wider public
  • work with partner organisations.

Public appointees do not become involved in the day-to-day running of the public body. This is the role of the Chief Executive and their management team. For more information about being a Board member, see 'On Board - A guide for members of statutory Boards'

How public appointments are made

The Public Appointments Team oversees the regulated public appointments process for Ministers. The Public Appointments Team follow the Ethical Standards Commissioner Code of Practice.

Details about each vacancy is posted on this website. All vacancies posted will have an applicant’s pack which provides detailed information about the role, the selection criteria, the time commitment, whether the appointment is remunerated and closing date for applications.

Equality and diversity

Scottish Ministers particularly welcome applications from people from protected groups, including women, disabled people, those from minority ethnic communities and people aged under 50.

If you are disabled and require a reasonable adjustment at any stage of the public appointments process, for example the application pack documentation in an alternative format such as plain text, Braille or large print or a reasonable adjustment to attend an interview, please get in touch with the Public Appointments Team on 0300 244 1898 or email

The Ethical Standards Commissioner publishes details about the diversity of public appointees. 

Potential effect on welfare benefits

Taking up a public appointment either paid or unpaid may have an effect on your entitlement to benefits or any benefits that you are in receipt of. This will depend on your individual circumstances, the type of benefit you receive and the appointment. You should seek advice from the office that deals with your benefit. Read further guidance on welfare benefits and public appointments.

The role of the Ethical Standards Commissioner

The Ethical Standards Commissioner and staff work within their remit to encourage fairness, good conduct and transparency in public life in Scotland. The commissioner regulates and monitors the system used to appoint board members and the team play a key role in ensuring that appointments are made on merit, using methods that are fair and open and reflect the diversity of Scottish society today. The commissioner publishes a Code of Practice to guide the public appointments process.

The Code requires that members of the selection panel are trained in the public appointments process. We have developed the following training materials to support this requirement:

Board Chairs of the Future Mentoring Scheme

The Board Chairs of the future mentoring scheme was delivered in a partnership of the Public Appointments Team and the Ethical Standards Commissioner. This project ran from August 2019 to November 2020 during which twelve mentors from the Chair cohort mentored twelve people from the Board members cohort from across the public bodies sector.

The aim was to develop the pipeline of Board Chairs from current appointees currently under-represented at Chair level, through broadening the skills, experience and knowledge required in taking on a Board Chair role.

An evaluation report is available



Telephone: 0300 244 1898 (Freephone)


Public Appointments Team
Scottish Government
Area 3F North
Victoria Quay
Edinburgh EH6 6QQ

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