Ethical standards in public life: consultation on model code of conduct for board members of devolved public bodies

Closed 8 Feb 2021

Opened 19 Oct 2020

Feedback updated 7 Dec 2021

We asked

The Model Code was last reviewed in 2014 and the Scottish Government acknowledged that various developments took place in society since then. It is important to take stock of these changes and this consulation provided users with an opportunity to contribute to a revised Model Code. We wanted to highlight the increasing role played by social media in our society, while underlining the importance of respectful behaviour and highlighting that bullying and harassment should not be tolerated under any circumstances. At the same time, we also want to make the Model Code simpler and easier to understand and that board members take personal ownership for their behaviour.

You said

There was broad agreement that since the Model Code was last reviewed in 2013-14 many changes had taken place across a range of areas which required to be reflected in an updated Model Code. It was also acknowledged that the use of social media was an every day norm and that it was appropriate for the Model Code to raise awarenes of the high standards of behaviour expected of board members in our devolved organisations.

We did

The Scottish Government carefully looked at the feedback to the consultation and on the back of that work produced a revised Model Code of Conduct that was considered to be fit for purpose. This revised Model Code was scrutinised by the parliament before being approved in October 2021. To support the Model Code and as part of the legislative process a supporting SSI was also laid in parliament  after the Model Code was approved. This SSI comes into effect on 7 December 2021. The Model Code has also been published on the same date and steps will now be taken to ensure all listed organisations produce and publish their updated Code of Conduct based on the new Model Code.

Published responses

View submitted responses where consent has been given to publish the response.


The Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 requires Scottish Ministers to issue a Code of Conduct for Councillors (Councillors’ Code) and a Model Code of Conduct for members of devolved public bodies (Members’ Code) as listed in Schedule 3 to the Act, as amended.

The aim of the Model Code is to set out clearly and openly the standards that Board Members of listed organisations in Schedule 3 of the 2000 Act must comply with when carrying out their duties.

This consultation sets out the proposals for a revised Model Code of Conduct and sets out the Key Principles, strengthens the obligations on individual board members and clarifies the actions that can be taken by the Standards Commission and the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in considering breaches of the Code.

Why your views matter

The Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 states that Ministers shall issue a Model Code only after it has been laid before and approved by a resolution of the Scottish Parliament. The same applies to any revision or re-issue of the Model Code.

The Councillors’ and Members’ Codes were approved by the Scottish Parliament in December 2001 and brought into effect on 1 May 2003. The current version of the Members’ Code was originally issued in 2010 and amended in 2014.

The Scottish Government recognises that a number of new developments have occurred since the Model Code was last reviewed in 2014, and that it is important to take account of such changes and provide users with an opportunity to contribute to the revised Model Code. We want to make the Model Code easier to understand and to take account of developments in our society, such as the role of social media. We also want to strengthen the Model Code to reinforce the importance of behaving in a respectful manner and to make it clear that bullying and harassment is completely unacceptable and should not be tolerated. We want to produce a Model Code that is fit for purpose and to ensure the highest standards of conduct are maintained.

This consultation will provide the opportunity for those with an interest in this area to consider the proposed update of the Model Code and to provide us with their views.

Read the consultation paper.

What happens next

Following the completion of the consultation all responses will be carefully considered and an analysis report will be completed. Where appropriate any changes that are required to be made to the proposed Model Code of Conduct will be made.

When we have a revised Model Code of Conduct and it is has been approved internally within the Scottish Government we will then present the updated version to the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee of the Scottish Parliament. This will provide the Committee with the opportunity to scrutinise the revised Model Code, before we proceed to seek the approval of the full Parliament.

Once the Parliament has approved the Model Code, the Public Bodies Unit will arrange for its publication on the Scottish Government website and will take the required administrative actions to ensure each individual organisation that is required to produce a Code of Conduct based on the Model Code do so within a set timescale.


  • Communities and Third Sector
  • Constitution and Democracy
  • Public Sector