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.
Similar names, different roles.....
25th February 2022
Similar Names, Different Roles
The existing ethical standards framework in Scotland for councillors and members of devolved public bodies (such as colleges, health boards and regional transport partnerships) was established in 2000. The framework allowed the Scottish Ministers to issue Codes of Conduct for councillors and members that are intended to regulate their behaviour and promote high ethical standards.
The Codes require councillors and members to behave with courtesy and respect towards colleagues, employees and members of the public. Councillors and members are also required, under the Codes, to register and declare relevant interests, to maintain confidentiality and to make decisions in the best interests of the public (and not of themselves, their friends and family).
The framework was established by two Acts of Parliament - The Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. Scotland Act 2000 and The Scottish Parliamentary Commissions and Commissioners etc. Act 2010.
The Acts provide for two public bodies, one of which is responsible (amongst other things), for investigating complaints that councillors and members of devolved public bodies may have contravened their respective Codes of Conduct. The other body is responsible for promoting the Codes and for making a final decision on any complaint, and for imposing a sanction on the councillor or member in question if it is upheld.
The two bodies have separate and distinct roles and responsibilities. All very clear – right?
Well… the only difficulty is that the names of the two bodies are somewhat similar! We have the Ethical Standards Commissioner on the one hand, and the Standards Commission on the other. Unfortunately, the two are easily confused and are all too often mistaken for each other. So, to set the record straight:
The role of the Standards Commission is to:
- promote the Codes of Conduct covering the behaviour of councillors and those appointed to the boards of devolved public bodies;
- issue guidance to councils and devolved public bodies on how the Codes should be interpreted; and
- adjudicate on alleged breaches of the Codes of Conduct, and where a breach is found, to apply a sanction.
The Ethical Standards Commissioner (ESC) is a separate and distinct officeholder, who has their own office. The ESC is responsible for investigating complaints that councillors and members of devolved public bodies have breached their respective Codes of Conduct. The ESC sends a report to the Standards Commission on the conclusion of their investigation. The ESC also has responsibilities in respect of complaints about MSPs and in regulating and monitoring how individuals are appointed to the boards of public bodies. Further information on the ESC’s role and remit can be found on their website at: https://www.ethicalstandards.org.uk .
So similar names, but different roles and responsibilities!