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.
Standards Commission's Response to the Scottish Government's Consultation on the Review of the National Outcomes
31st May 2023
Response to the Scottish Government's Consultation on the Review of the National Outcomes
The Scottish Government is consulting on the National Performance Framework. The consultation and review are designed to ensure the National Outcomes reflect what matters most to communities in Scotland. On 31 May 2023, the Standards Commission submitted a response to the consultation. The response is outlined below:
The Standards Commission notes that the current ‘Human Rights’ Vision includes the aim of having "robust, independent means to hold government to account and take an active interest in politics and civic life". The ‘Communities’ Vision includes the aim that everyone in Scotland is "encouraged to volunteer, take responsibility for our community and engage with decisions about it".
The Standards Commission believes that adherence to the key principles of public life and a commitment to high ethical standards is crucial to these stated aims. The public's trust and confidence in public bodies, and desire to engage with politics, civic life and community decisions, is largely dependent on them having trust that those in public life (including politicians and individuals appointed to the boards of public bodies) are committed to high ethical standards.
The Standards Commission considers that a democracy cannot function properly if the public do not trust public institutions and bodies, as the delivery of public policies and services depends largely on the response from the public.
A lack of trust in politicians and others in public life can also have an adverse effect on participation. Members of the public may be discouraged from standing for office if they have no faith in those in charge. The Standards Commission considers that Scotland needs as many people as possible to participate in a democracy, in order to ensure all views and interests are represented.
The Standards Commission considers, therefore, that it is important to try to include indicators that seek to measure: involvement, confidence and perceptions of public bodies and individuals in public life; and engagement with public bodies and involvement and participation in public life.
For the reasons outlined in the answer below, the Standards Commission suggest the inclusion of indicators, in respect of the Communities and Human Rights National Outcomes, that measure engagement with public bodies and local councils, such as one relating to:
- whether there is public confidence that decisions are being made in the public interest only;
- the level of understanding of what councils and public bodies do, and how they make decisions;
- perceptions regarding honesty and respect in politics;
- gauging the public’s understanding of how they can engage with public bodies and their local councillors;
- the extent of involvement in community councils over time (i.e. overall number of community councils and how many community councillors);
- how many individuals apply to the boards of public bodies or stand as candidates in local elections;
- measurement of councillor turnover (for reasons other than retirement or not being re-elected); and
- measurements of representation and voter turnout over time.