Scottish Government response to harassment reviews

Scottish Government response to the reports by Laura Dunlop QC, James Hamilton, Independent Adviser on the Scottish Ministerial Code, and the Scottish Parliament Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints.


Today the Scottish Government sets out its response to the recent review by Laura Dunlop QC, James Hamilton’s Ministerial Code inquiry and the Scottish Parliament Harassment Committee’s report.

The Scottish Government has welcomed all three reports and together they inform the actions being announced today. Our goal is to embed a culture where bullying and harassment is not tolerated and where there is trust in how matters will be handled if things go wrong. This work is informed by engagement with our recognised trade unions and by staff, including those with lived experiences of bullying and harassment.

At the heart of the three reports are the complaints from two women who spoke of unacceptable behaviour in the course of performing their duties as civil servants. These complaints could not be ignored. Everyone should be able to expect a respectful and safe working environment. This is both a legal right and core to the values of the organisation.

It was right that these complaints were taken seriously and investigated. However, it is clear that the complainers have been let down. Their testimony included within the Committee’s report is particularly upsetting and raises important issues that we must reflect on within the Scottish Government, the Parliament and across wider society. The Scottish Government apologises unreservedly to the two women – we let them down.

Tackling allegations of sexual misconduct, particularly when these are historical and where there is an imbalance of power, is and will remain challenging. The Scottish Government put a process in place and implemented it. The lessons to be learned from that implementation are clear and will be applied. The actions set out here, drawing on the insights from the three reports, aim to ensure that change happens. We have made that commitment to staff, to Parliament and to the public and it is absolute.

The implementation plan annexed to this response sets out actions, including: 

  • Establishing an external and independent procedure for investigation and adjudication of complaints about Ministers’ or former Ministers’ behaviour; 
  • Creating a team within Government with responsibility for propriety and ethics, to provide oversight and coordination on sensitive issues; and 
  • Taking action to improve how we use, store and retrieve information and records, learning the lessons from our internal review of information management.

The implementation plan gives timescales for this work – and we know that it cannot and should not be rushed – but it is important that we can provide reassurance to employees now. We are working with the Trade Unions to ensure that clear and agreed mechanisms exist for issues to be raised and addressed in the interim. 

Our aim is to ensure a culture of high performance and mutual respect between Ministers and civil servants, where productive working relationships are valued and nurtured, and bullying or harassment in any context is not tolerated. This is embedded in the organisation’s new vision, ‘In the service of Scotland’, which is underpinned by five core values of integrity, inclusion, collaboration, innovation and kindness. These values guide how we act, the decisions we take, and how we work together across all parts of Government, to achieve our purpose to serve people in Scotland.

We are determined to learn from and apply the insights from these reports to build a culture where concerns are addressed early, and where all those involved with a complaint have confidence and can engage constructively and fairly in the process.

Nicola Sturgeon MSP,
First Minister

Leslie Evans,
Permanent Secretary




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