Scottish Ministerial Code 2016 edition

Code of conduct and guidance on procedures for Cabinet Secretaries, Ministers and Law Officers.

10. Ministers and the Presentation of Policy

General Principle

10.1 Official facilities paid for out of public funds can be used for Government publicity and advertising but may not be used for the dissemination of material which is essentially party political.

Media Interviews, Speeches, Etc.

10.2 In order to ensure the effective presentation of Government policy, Scottish Government Media Managers co‑ordinate a strategic communications process on behalf of Ministers. This requires, among other things, that all major interviews and media appearances, both print and broadcast, are the subject of prior consultation with Media Managers and, if appropriate, the First Minister and any other Minister he or she may designate for this purpose.

10.3 The presentational aspects of all major announcements, speeches and new policy initiatives should also be discussed with Media Managers in this way, and the timing, format and content of all announcements should be cleared with them. The conventions governing the work of Government Communications staff are set out in the Government Communication Service Propriety Guidance. [24]

10.4 In all cases other than representations on behalf of constituents (as described in paragraph 7.6), the principle of collective responsibility applies, as set out in paragraph 2.1. Ministers should ensure that their statements are consistent with collective Government policy. Ministers should take special care in referring to subjects which are the responsibility of other Ministers.

10.5 Ministers must only use official machinery for distributing texts of speeches relating to Government business. Speeches made in a party political context must be distributed through the party machinery.

News Conferences/Broadcasts

10.6 As part of their general presentational duties, Ministers will be expected to speak to the news media, through television and radio interviews, through interviews with journalists and through news conferences. In all cases, the advice of Media Managers should be sought before any such events are arranged, e.g. on timing, content and handling. Support should be provided by Media Managers where this is practical. In keeping with the concept of collective responsibility, Ministers should be mindful that when responding to direct approaches from members of the media, their comments are likely to be perceived as representative of the Government. In all cases, propriety should be maintained, in accordance with Government Communication Service Propriety Guidance. Details on procedures for media handling will be provided by Media Managers.

10.7 Ministers invited to broadcast on radio, television and/or webcasts in a political or private capacity should consider if acceptance of such an invitation would have a bearing on another Minister's responsibilities, in which case they should clear the matter with the Ministerial colleague concerned before agreeing to the invitation.

Non-Government Communications, including Press Articles

10.8 Ministers may contribute to a book, journal, newspaper (including the letters pages), blog or other similar social media, including a local newspaper in the constituency or region they represent as MSP, provided that publication will not be at variance with Ministers' obligations to Parliament or their duty to observe the principle of collective Ministerial responsibility and that it does not bring the Government into disrepute. No payment should be accepted for such contributions.

10.9 Any Minister wishing to practise regular journalism must have the prior written approval of the First Minister.

Social Media

10.10 Ministers may retain personal social media accounts ( e.g. Facebook, Twitter), provided that any activity on their account is not at variance with their obligations to Parliament or their duty to observe the principle of collective Ministerial responsibility. It is Ministers' personal responsibility to ensure that social media activity in their name does not breach these requirements or bring the Government into disrepute.

10.11 If Ministers wish to use social media for official policy communications, they should use an appropriate Government account.

Payment for Speeches, Media Articles, Etc.

10.12 Ministers should not accept payment for speeches or media articles of an official nature or which directly draw on their responsibilities or experience as Ministers or with a view to donating the fee to charity. If the organisation in question insists on making a donation to a charity then it should be a charity of the organisation's choice. This is to avoid any criticism that a Minister is using his or her official position to influence or take the credit for donations to charity.


10.13 Ministers may not, while in office, write and publish a book on their Ministerial experiences. Nor, while serving as a Minister, may they enter into any agreement to publish their memoirs on leaving their Ministerial position.

10.14 Former Ministers intending to publish their memoirs are required to submit the draft manuscript in good time before publication to the Permanent Secretary and to conform to the principles set out in the Radcliffe report of 1976. [25]


10.15 Ministers are sometimes asked to give interviews to persons engaged in academic research or in market opinion surveys or questionnaires. Ministers should bear in mind the possibility that their views may be reported in a manner incompatible with their responsibilities and duties as Ministers, and such interviews should normally be declined.

Publication of Policy Statements and Consultation Papers

10.16 Given the need to make statements of policy to Parliament before the media, there is no procedure whereby final proof copies of policy documents can be made available under embargo to accredited correspondents a short time before publication. If a Minister wishes to depart from this general principle, Media Managers and, through them, the First Minister and whichever Minister he or she may designate for this purpose must be consulted. See also paragraph 2.25 for clearance of Government policy documents and consultation papers.


10.17 Ministers who wish to make a complaint against a journalist or a particular section of the media to the Press Complaints Commission, Ofcom or the BBC Trust, as appropriate, must have the authority of the First Minister. The nature of the complaint and the case for referring it to the appropriate body should be set out in a minute to the First Minister, copied to the Permanent Secretary, DG Strategy & Operations, the Director of Communications and Ministerial Support and the Head of Communications. Similarly, Ministers should always consult the Head of Communications before making any oral complaint to a media organisation about their handling of a story.

Meetings with External Organisations

10.18 A monthly list of engagements carried out by all Ministers is published three months in arrears. Detailed arrangements for recording contacts with outside interest groups, including lobbyists, are set out in paragraphs 4.22 to 4.24 above. See also paragraphs 9.27 to 9.31 for further guidance on contact with commercial companies.

Meetings with the Media

10.19 Ministers must be open about their links with the media. The monthly list of Ministerial engagements referred to in paragraph 10.18 above will include Ministers' meetings with newspaper and other media proprietors, editors and senior executives, regardless of the purpose of the meeting.


10.20 Ministers must be mindful of the UK Statistics Authority's Code of Practice, [26] which defines good practice in relation to official statistics, observance of which is a statutory requirement on all organisations that produce National Statistics in accordance with the provisions of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.

10.21 Ministers must also have regard to the relevant Pre-Release Access to Official Statistics Orders, [27] which place strict conditions on access to official statistics in their final form, including limiting access ahead of publication and prohibits any statement or comment to the press ahead of release of the statistics.


Email: Robin Benn,

Back to top