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.

Executive summary

The publication in March 2021 of the reports by Laura Dunlop QC, James Hamilton and the Scottish Parliamentary Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints followed a series of events in which the Scottish Government acknowledges failings. We let down two women who came forward with complaints.

The Scottish Government is fully committed to eliminating bullying and harassment, promoting diversity and inclusion, respecting the rule of law, acting in an open and transparent way, and treating all our people with kindness, dignity and compassion.

This document marks the point at which we formally respond to the recommendations and set out the path we will take to ensure that our processes and cultures improve for those who may need to make complaints in the future.

The Scottish Government will focus on three areas for improvement:

  • Rebuilding confidence in our complaints process;
  • Improving the robustness of and compliance with our document management and storage processes; and
  • Improving the effectiveness of our internal arrangements for managing issues involving propriety and ethics.

Much of the work in relation to these matters is already underway:

  • An exercise was established to gather our internal lessons, from the broad range of initiatives that exist within the Scottish Government to actively promote the positive values, culture and behaviours we want to see across Government and in our relationships with stakeholders.
  • A new Ministerial induction programme was developed for Ministers appointed following the 2021 Scottish Parliamentary elections.
  • Alongside this response, we are publishing our information management report as part of our commitment to openness and transparency.
  • Within Scottish Government a substantial programme of work with appropriate external advice and governance has commenced, to take forward the implementation plan set out in this document as well as manage the changes that will be required internally.
  • A permanent appointment to the new post of Director General Corporate has taken place to strengthen support to the Permanent Secretary.

The key future aspects of our implementation plan are:

  • We will, by the end of 2021, introduce an external and independent procedure for the investigation and adjudication of complaints about Ministers’ or former Ministers’ behaviour. This will be carried out in partnership with the recognised trade unions. We are also working with them to ensure issues can be raised and responded to appropriately in the interim.
  • We will continue work to implement the recommendations of our information management review and will set out more detail of specific actions by September 2021, based on lessons from implementing the first phase of the plan.
  • We will, by September 2021, bring together our key Propriety and Ethics functions under a single point of leadership within DG Corporate.
  • As is usual following an election, the First Minister will give consideration to the publication of a revised Scottish Ministerial Code. Relevant comments made by Mr Hamilton, Ms Dunlop and the Committee will be considered during this process.

Care must be taken when developing a new policy and procedure of this type. To be effective the policy will depend upon wide acceptance: individuals need to have confidence to come forward and all parties need to engage in good faith. We will endeavour to get a new procedure in place as quickly as possible and, at the latest, by the end of this calendar year. In the event that a complaint of harassment is raised between now and then, we will be guided by the 2017 procedure. However, in applying that procedure, we will take account of the comments and recommendations made in the three reports we are responding to – in particular in relation to the correct interpretation of section 10. We will also liaise closely with recognised trade unions and draw on external advice as appropriate. The provisions for handling complaints about ministers – other than harassment – within Fairness at Work will also remain in place.

We will update the Scottish Parliament on progress before the end of 2021.




Related information

Back to top