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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.

Members of the Standards Commission

4th July 2024


The Standards Commission is responsible for ensuring councillors and board members of devolved public bodies meet the high standards of behaviour that the public is entitled to expect. It takes a proactive approach by promoting high ethical standards and raising awareness of the key principles of public life. It does so by issuing Guidance, Advice Notes and Standards Updates, by facilitating training events, and by answering queries and providing advice to councillors, board members, public body employees and members of the public.

While the Standards Commission’s overall aim is to prevent breaches of the Codes of Conduct from occurring, it also has an enforcement role through its work on adjudicating on complaints (by either deciding to hold a Hearing or take no action) and in imposing sanctions when a breach is found. 

The Standards Commission comprises a Convener and four Commission Members who are appointed by the Parliamentary corporation, with approval from the Scottish Parliament. Members work for the Standards Commission on a part-time basis (three days per month for the Convener and two days for other Members).

Who are the Standards Commission’s Members?

Suzanne Vestri: Suzanne is the Standards Commission’s Convener, having previously served as a Member. Suzanne is a self-employed consultant providing support and training to public and voluntary sector organisations. She previously led the award-winning ‘see me’ campaign to end mental health discrimination. Suzanne breeds rare sheep and runs a successful wool business. She is also a volunteer First Responder for the Scottish Ambulance Service. Suzanne has been a Board Member of Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration since 2016, and was previously a Children’s Panel Member and Panel Practice Adviser.

Ashleigh Dunn: Ashleigh is an experienced Executive Director in public services and charity Trustee, specialising in organisational and leadership development. She is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh and a Chartered Fellow CIPD. Ashleigh has over 20 years’ experience in NHS management, across the UK, holding a number of Executive posts. Her last role in health was as Head of Leadership Development for NHS Scotland. Ashleigh has previously been Executive Director for Organisational Development and People Management with Natural Resources Wales. Ashleigh continues to serve as a Trustee/Board Adviser with two Scottish Charities.

Helen Donaldson: Helen enjoyed a long career in education, working locally and nationally, initially as an English teacher in Stirling and in Angus. Thereafter she moved to more strategic roles firstly as a literacy development officer before taking on leadership responsibilities in Aberdeenshire as a Quality Improvement Officer then Acting Head of Early Years. Helen continued in local authority work as Head of Education and Inclusion in Aberdeen City with wide ranging responsibilities, working closely with local councillors, outside agencies and officers from across the Council. Other roles have included working on the National Improvement Framework with Education Scotland and the Scottish Government’s Learning Directory.

Morag Ferguson: A solicitor for more than 30 years, Morag has worked mostly in the public sector in both the NHS Central Legal Office and a number of local authorities. Latterly, she was Head of Corporate Support at East Lothian Council, with responsibility for Governance, People Services, HR and Corporate Communications. Over her career, Morag has gained extensive experience of local government governance and of working with elected members, holding the statutory role of Monitoring Officer at both Fife Council and East Lothian Council. She has also developed and delivered training on governance and the Councillors’ Code of Conduct and was a member of the SOLAR Monitoring Officers Networking Group.

Lezley Stewart: Lezley is a graduate of University of St Andrews and University of Edinburgh, and Princeton and Pittsburgh Seminaries, USA.  She worked for the Church of Scotland for over 25 years in Dundee and Edinburgh, serving as an ordained Office Holder. Most recently, Lezley was employed as the Recruitment & Support Secretary and Ministries Support Manager for the Church of Scotland with oversight of the recruitment and assessment processes for the Ministries of the Church, and had responsibility for the centralised support provisions and policies for those serving as Office Holders, providing advice and guidance and working with a Code of Conduct.

More information on our current Members and their registers of interest can be found at:

What do Members of the Standards Commission do?

Members of the Standards Commission promote and encourage high ethical standards in public life and assist with the running of the organisation. In particular, they set the strategic direction for the Standards Commission and monitor its performance. Members also support the development of guidance and education material and contribute to training sessions.

Suzanne Vestri notes: “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 declaring interests, maintaining confidentiality and bullying and harassment.”

In addition, Members consider reports received from the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland on the outcome of any investigation undertaken into a complaint alleging that a local authority councillor or board member of a devolved public body has contravened their Code of Conduct. Members then make a decision on the disposal of the complaint. This can include conducting Hearings to determine whether a breach of the applicable Code has occurred and impose an appropriate sanction, if so. The sanctions available range from censure, or suspension from meetings of the council or public body for up to one year, to disqualification for up to five years.

Ashleigh Dunn explains: “As Members, we decide if the Standards Commission should hold a Hearing, based on whether or not we consider it is in the public interest and proportionate to do so. As Members of a Hearing Panel, we consider and weigh all relevant evidence led and submissions made, to determine whether or not the councillor or member 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, we  then determine the sanction to be applied.”

More information on the Standards Commission’s adjudicatory work can be found at:  

Do Standards Commission Members have their own Code of Conduct?

Members of the Standards Commission have adopted their own Code of Conduct, which is based on the Model Code of Conduct for Members of Devolved Public Bodies.

A link to a copy of the Standards Commission’s Members’ Code can be found at: