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Scottish Ministerial Code: A code of conduct and guidance on procedures for Members of the Scottish Government and Junior Scottish Ministers



Ministerial Responsibilities and Titles

4.1 The First Minister is responsible for the overall organisation of the Government and appoints all Cabinet Secretaries and junior Scottish Ministers. Such appointments are also subject to the agreement of the Parliament and the approval of The Queen.

4.2 The structure and allocation of portfolios is a matter for the First Minister. The allocation of functions between Ministers is the responsibility of the First Minister whose approval must be sought where any changes are proposed that affect this allocation and the responsibilities for the discharge of Ministerial functions.

4.3 All Ministerial titles, and any proposed changes to them, must also be approved by the First Minister.

Ministers' Availability

4.4 The First Minister's office should be kept informed of Ministers' engagements, and also of their weekend and holiday arrangements, so that, if a sudden emergency arises, it can inform the First Minister which Ministers are immediately available. As set out at paragraph 9.3, any Minister who wishes to be absent from the UK for any reason, other than official business at a European Union institution, must seek the First Minister's approval.

4.5 When a Minister will be unable to be contacted for a considerable period because of absence or illness it may be desirable that arrangements should be made for another member of the Government to be available to cover for him or her and to represent his or her interests in discussions in Cabinet or in any other collective Ministerial meetings. The First Minister's prior approval should be sought for the arrangements for cover for an absent Minister.

Parliamentary Liaison Officers

4.6 The First Minister may, on the recommendation of a Cabinet Secretary, and following consultation with the Minister for Parliamentary Business, appoint an MSP as a Parliamentary Liaison Officer ( PLO) to support the Cabinet Secretary in the discharge of his or her Parliamentary duties.

4.7 No approach should be made to a potential Parliamentary Liaison Officer without the prior approval of the First Minister and the Minister for Parliamentary Business. Appointment as a Parliamentary Liaison Officer can be terminated at any time by the First Minister, following consultation with the Cabinet Secretary whom the PLO has been appointed to assist and the Minister for Parliamentary Business.

4.8 Parliamentary Liaison Officers are not members of the Scottish Government and may not stand in for Cabinet Secretaries at media or other events. They should also exercise discretion in any speeches or broadcasts which they may make, taking care not to make statements which appear to be made in an official or semi-official capacity.

4.9 Parliamentary Liaison Officers may be invited to attend official meetings and may be given access to Government information. Such access should be solely for the purpose of allowing PLOs to discharge their role effectively, and on a strictly confidential basis. PLOs should not, however, have access to information with a protective marking of secret or above, except on the personal authority of the First Minister. PLOs are required to exercise care in the use of any official information to which they have access in the course of their duties as a PLO and, in particular, should respect the confidentiality arrangements.

4.10 While Parliamentary Liaison Officers are not subject to the rules on private interests which apply to Ministers, they must, as a general rule, seek to avoid any real or perceived conflict of interest between their role as a Parliamentary Liaison Officer and their private interests.

4.11 Parliamentary Liaison Officers undertaking visits within the United Kingdom relating to their duties as a PLO may receive the normal Civil Service travel and subsistence allowances, as would other MSPs undertaking work for the Government.

Special Advisers

4.12 The employment of Special Advisers can add a political dimension to the advice available to Ministers and provide the direct advice of distinguished experts in their professional field. It also reinforces the political impartiality of the permanent Civil Service by distinguishing the source of political advice and support. Up to 12 Special Advisers may be appointed by the First Minister. If the First Minister leaves office the Advisers appointed by him also leave. The First Minister is responsible for deciding on the distribution of Special Adviser posts within the Scottish Government, whether in support of individual Ministers or as a collective resource. All appointments require the prior written approval of the First Minister, and no commitments to make such appointments should be entered into in the absence of such approval. All such appointments should be made, and all Special Advisers should operate, in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Model Contract for Special Advisers. Salaries for Advisers are determined by either a Special Advisers Remuneration Committee or any alternative mechanism that may be put in place following discussion and agreement with the First Minister.

4.13 Under the Scotland Act, the First Minister has delegated authority to appoint up to 12 Special Advisers. The responsibility for the management and conduct of Special Advisers, including discipline, rests with the First Minister. It is of course, open to the First Minister to terminate employment by withdrawing his consent to an individual appointment.

4.14 The Scottish Government is committed to making an annual statement to Parliament setting out the numbers, names and paybands of Special Advisers and their overall salary cost. This statement will also include similar details in respect of unpaid advisers.

Unpaid Advisers

4.15 The appointment of an unpaid adviser is a personal appointment by the Minister concerned. There is no contractual relationship between such an adviser and the Scottish Government and the appointment carries no remuneration or reimbursement from public funds. Such appointments are exceptional, and the prior written approval of the First Minister should be sought before any commitment is entered into. In making appointments Ministers must ensure that there is no conflict of interest between the matters on which the unpaid adviser will be advising and his or her private concerns. A letter of appointment must be issued by the Minister concerned making this clear. The letter should indicate the subjects with which an unpaid adviser may (or may not) deal and explain what papers they will have access to. The normal rules of confidentiality apply in relation to the protection by the adviser of any official information to which he or she has access by virtue of the appointment. Unpaid advisers are also subject to the Official Secrets Act and Business Appointment Rules for Crown Servants. Aside from the provision of a furnished office, use of a telephone, and access to typing facilities, a personal computer and internal departmental messenger system, an unpaid adviser should constitute no cost to the public purse.

Royal Commissions and Committees of Inquiry

4.16 The First Minister should be consulted in good time about any proposal to set up:

(a) Royal Commissions in relation to devolved matters; and

(b) Independent Committees of Inquiry into any aspect of policy on devolved matters.

4.17 Submissions proposing either of the above should contain details of the proposed size and structure of the body. This requirement is separate from the provisions concerning appointments set out in Section 5 below.

Contacts with Outside Interest Groups, Including Lobbyists

4.18 Ministers receive deputations from many outside interest groups which they will wish to consider as part of the formulation of Government policy. The basic facts of formal meetings between Ministers and outside interest groups should be recorded, setting out the reasons for the meeting, the names of those attending and the interests represented.