Note 13: Public Bodies
1. This guidance applies to the activities of national devolved public bodies and public bodies with both devolved and reserved functions between 25 March and 6 May.
2. Sponsor Directorates should ensure that staff and Board members of public bodies are aware of the guidance and the statutory restrictions contained in this guidance. If in doubt, public bodies should always seek advice from their Scottish Government sponsor team or Scottish Government contact, who will refer to Cabinet Secretariat, Public Bodies Unit and the Permanent Secretary, as necessary.
3. Public bodies should avoid situations where any actions by their staff or Board members (acting in their capacity as Board members), could reasonably be construed as politically controversial or partisan in terms of the election or which could be seen to conflict with the statutory restrictions.
4. Public bodies should avoid any actions by staff or Board members (acting in their capacity as Board members) which might be interpreted as meaning they are working with any particular political party.
5. Public bodies should refer to the advice on Government communications activities set out in Note 8 above. If in doubt, public bodies should always seek advice from their Scottish Government sponsor team or relevant contact in the Scottish Government. The Chief Executive of a public body, as Accountable Officer, should ensure that staff and Board members are aware of their responsibilities and the relevant codes of conduct.
Staff of public bodies
6. Staff of public bodies, like all public servants, are required to maintain political impartiality in the way in which they go about their public duties. There is no absolute prohibition on political activity for staff of public bodies, but public bodies need to be sure that, as a minimum, staff engaging in political activity avoid any comment on the business of their public body itself, bring any political involvement into their day-to-day work or engage in controversy relevant to the body's work. Codes of conduct for staff of public bodies will provide further detail.
7. The Model Code of Conduct for Members of Devolved Public Bodies provides guidance for board members of public bodies. Board members must not use resources provided by the public body, or any information to which they have access, for political purposes or any campaigning activities. The key principles of the Model Code, especially those in relation to integrity, honesty and openness, are given practical effect by the requirement for members to declare certain interests in proceedings of the public body.
8. Board members choosing to make a public position of a campaigning nature should be mindful that their view may be perceived as representing the views of the Board, even when the Board member is doing so as a private citizen or in another capacity. A Board member should therefore make it clear that the view expressed is their personal opinion and not that of the public body, to avoid any inference that they are speaking on behalf of the public body.
9. For further information, please contact the Public Bodies Unit:
- Ian Thomson or Public Bodies Unit Mailbox