Public bodies in Scotland: summary guide

Summary information on the different types of public bodies in Scotland.

Public bodies play an important role in the delivery of public services in Scotland. Their functions range from health and social care to the arts, culture and the built environment. They are part of the wider delivery landscape of Scottish public services which includes local and regional government.

Through alignment with our National Performance Framework, public bodies are making a significant contribution to the delivery of our purpose and strategic objectives which are part of our overall Economic Strategy.

Their place in the process of government is well established allowing important statutory, regulatory and advisory functions to be carried out at arm's length from central government, particularly in areas where it would be inappropriate for legal or other reasons for mainstream Scottish Government to be directly involved.

Types of public body

Public bodies come in a variety of shapes and sizes and fall into one of the following classifications depending on their functions and relationship with Scottish Ministers and/or the Scottish Parliament.

Executive agencies

Executive agencies are constituent parts of Scottish Government with a stronger focus on operational management and direct delivery of public services. They are headed by a Chief Executive who together with the agency staff are civil servants.

Executive non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs)

NDPBs have a national remit and carry out administrative, commercial, executive or regulatory functions at arm's length from Government. They are normally established by statute, Royal Charter or as companies limited by guarantee. Most NDPBs have Boards appointed by Scottish Ministers. Board member appointments are made subject to the Code set out by the Commissioner for Public Appointments.

Advisory non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs)

Advisory NDPBs have a national remit and carry out advisory functions providing specialist advice to Ministers and others.


Tribunals are responsible for tasks and advice relating to specialist areas of the law, carry out judicial functions but are separate from the formal court system.

Public corporations

Publc corporations are industrial or commercial enterprises under direct control of Ministers. NHS bodies - provide management, technical or advisory services within the NHS.

Non-Ministerial departments

Non-ministerial departments are headed by a statutory office holder and operate at arm's length from Government.

Commissioners and ombudsmen

Commissioners and ombudsmen have a range of roles including safeguarding the rights of particular groups in society and reporting on, monitoring and handling complaints about the activity of public organisations.

Other organisations

There are a range of other significant national organisations including inspectorates with Chief Inspectors appointed by the Crown.

Further information on each of Scotland's public bodies is provided in the Public Bodies directory.

Information on public appointments to those public bodies with ministerially-appointed boards is provided on the Appointed for Scotland website.

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