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About Us

The Standards Commission is an independent body whose purpose is to encourage high ethical standards in public life through the promotion and enforcement of Codes of Conduct for councillors and those appointed to the boards of devolved public bodies.

FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Q:  What is the Standards Commission?

A:  The Standards Commission is an independent body set up by the Ethical Standards in Public etc. (Scotland) Act 2000. The Commission encourages high ethical standards in public life through the promotion and enforcement of Codes of Conduct for Councillors and Members of Devolved Public Bodies.

The Standards Commission works with local authorities and public bodies to help them assist their councillors and members to achieve the highest standards of conduct. We also issue guidance on the Codes of Conduct and advice notes on specific provisions they contain, such as on how to declare interests, and bullying and harassment.

Complaints about breaches of the Codes of Conduct by councillors and members of devolved public bodies are investigated by the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland (ESC).  Following the completion of an investigation, the ESC will submit a report for the consideration of the Standards Commission. The Standards Commission will review the Report and determine whether to:direct the ESC to carry out further investigations; hold a Hearing; or do neither.

The Standards Commission will hold a Hearing, if it considers it is in the public interest and proportionate to do so, to determine whether the councillor or member of a devolved public body in question has contravened their respective Code of Conduct. If the evidence presented to the Standards Commission’s Hearing Panel supports that a breach of the Code had occurred, the Hearing Panel will then determine the sanction to be applied, in accordance with the 2000 Act.

Q:  Where can I get a copy of the Codes of Conduct?

A:  The Codes of Conduct can be downloaded from the Codes of Conduct menu on this website. Alternatively, you can Contact Us and ask to be sent a copy. 

Q:  Who are Members of the Standards Commission?

A: Details of the Members of the Standards Commission can be found on our Who We Are page of this website.

Q:  How do I make a complaint about a councillor or member of a devolved public body? 

A: If you consider that a councillor or member of a devolved public body has breached the Code of Conduct, you can make a complaint to the ESC.  This is a separate organisation from the Standards Commission. More information about the ESC and how to make a complaint can be found on the ESC's website.

Q:  How is the Standards Commission different from the Commissioner for Ethical Standards In Public Life in Scotland?

A: The ESC is an independent officeholder responsible for investigating complaints about councillors, members of devolved public bodies and Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) who are alleged to have contravened their relevant Code of Conduct.

Following the conclusion of an investigation into a complaint about a councillor or member of a devolved public body, the ESC will submit a report to the Standards Commission.  It is the Standards Commission's responsibility to determine whether to hold a Hearing, direct the ESC to undertake further investigations, or do neither.  Where the Standards Commission decides to hold a Hearing, a Hearing Panel comprised of Members of the Commission will determine whether the councillor or member has breached the relevant Code of Conduct and, in the event that a breach is found, the sanction to be applied.

The ESC reports  to the Scottish Parliament on the outcome of any investigation she has undertaken into whether a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP)has breached their Code of Conduct.  The Standards Commission has no jurisdiction to adjudicate on a complaints about MSPs.

Q:  Why are the Standards Commission and ESC separate organisations? 

A: The independence of the investigatory role undertaken by the ESC and the adjudicatory role undertaken by the Standards Commission is a crucial principle. The reason for, and benefit of, the separation of functions between the two distinct organisations is to ensure impartiality, fairness and objectivity in the decision-making process.

Q:  Can I attend a Standards Commission Hearing?

A: The Standards Commission's Hearings are usually held in public unless there is a very good reason to hold them in private. This means you can attend and observe a Hearing. However, you cannot participate in any Hearing unless you are a party to it or have been asked to be a witness. Details of forthcoming Hearings can be found on the Cases page of this website.

Q:  Where can I find the outcome of Hearings that have been held? 

A:  The outcome of Hearings that have been held, including the written decision can be found on the Cases page of this website.

Q: How is the Standards Commission funded?

A: The Standards Commission receives funding on a cash basis from the overall budget of the Scottish Parliamentary corporation. The Executive Director is the Accountable Officer.

Q:  How is the Standards Commission different from the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman?

A: The Standards Commission promotes and enforces compliance with the Codes of Conduct by councillors and members of devolved public bodies. The Scottish Public Service Ombudsman handles complaints about maladministration and service failure on the part of an organisation. The Standards Commission's role concerns the conduct of individuals and, unlike the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman, we do not deal with issues or complaints relating to the service provided by an organisation.

Q:  How is the Standards Commission different from the Accounts Commission?

A: The Standards Commission is responsible for assisting local authorities and public bodies in ensuring that high standards of ethical conduct are attained by councillor and members. The Accounts Commission audits the accounts of councils to secure financial propriety and seeks to promote best value in the delivery of council services.