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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.

Why have Codes of Conduct for Board Members?

13th February 2024

Why have Codes of Conduct for Board Members?

The Standards Commission’s remit covers both local government councillors and board members of devolved public bodies in Scotland.

Few would argue with the need to ensure high ethical standards in local government – after all, local authorities have responsibility for a wide range of matters that affect almost every aspect of our day to day lives. But why is it important for members of devolved public bodies to comply with an ethical standards regime and a Code of Conduct?

To answer that, it is important to understand, firstly, what are devolved public bodies and what do they do.

Devolved public bodies are organisations for which either the Scottish Government or Scottish Parliament is responsible and with whom they have a direct relationship. The devolved public bodies covered by the Standards Commission’s remit are listed at Schedule 3 of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 and cover:

  • Individual Public Bodies, such as the Scottish Legal Aid Board, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, and Scottish Canals;
  • Further Education Colleges;
  • National Health Service Boards;
  • Regional Transport Partnerships; and
  • Health and Social Care Integration Joint Boards

Devolved public bodies play an important role in the delivery of public services in Scotland. Their functions range from health and social care to the arts, culture and the built environment. Public bodies contribute to delivering the National Outcomes set out in the Scottish Government’s National Performance Framework, and carry out statutory, regulatory and advisory functions at arm's length from central government.

Public bodies promote, deliver, fund and scrutinise public services. They also can provide impartial expert advice to Ministers, the Parliament, the public and other organisations that deliver public services. NHS Health Boards, for example, lead the development of plans to achieve effective and efficient health services which seek to meet the needs of patients and wider communities. College boards are responsible for ensuring that quality education is provided in a way that offers value for money.

Given the importance of their role in the delivery of services and in spending public money, it is important that the board members tasked with:

  • providing strategic leadership;
  • ensuring the public body delivers its functions and manages it finance and resources wisely; and
  • holding the Chief Executive and senior management team to account;

are obliged to adhere to the highest ethical standards.

The public bodies covered by the 2000 Act are required to produce their own Code of Conduct for their board members, based on the Model Code of Conduct for Members of the Boards of Devolved Public Bodies. Adherence to these Codes ensures board members meet the standards that the Scottish public has a right to expect.

For example, the Codes require board members to register and declare interests, and to refrain from accepting gifts or hospitality from any individual or body awaiting a decision from, or seeking to do business with, their public body. These provisions help ensure that they make decisions on merit and in the public interest, rather than in their own interests or the interests of their friends, family or associates.

The Codes also require board members to behave with courtesy and respect towards their colleagues, the public body’s employees and its service users. Adherence with these provisions help to maintain public trust in the public body and to ensure the public body runs effectively.

More information on how the Standards Commission promotes and enforces the Codes can be found at