Section 9: Enforcement of the Rules

Disclosure

1. Members must not disclose, communicate or discuss any complaint or intention to make a complaint to or with members of the press or other media prior to the lodging of the complaint or during Stages 1, 2 and 3 of the procedure for dealing with complaints  (this procedure is set out in the guidance on the Code of Conduct (the Code)). Stage 3 is completed when the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee has made a report to the Parliament.

2. In relation to Excluded Complaints (which are not always subject to the four stage process set out in the guidance notes), this restriction applies until the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee has confirmed that the Ethical Standards Commissioner will not be carrying out an investigation or, where such an investigation has been carried out, that the Ethical Standards Commissioner will not be carrying out any further investigation.

3. Where, during the period when the restriction on disclosure applies, any complaint or intention to make a complaint has been publicised in the press or other media without the involvement of the member who is the subject of the complaint or intended complaint, that member may issue a brief statement. In doing so, the member must, so far as possible, avoid discussing details of the complaint or intended complaint.

Complaints

4. Complaints, in relation to the conduct of Members of the Scottish Parliament under the Code, are initially investigated by the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland (“the Ethical Standards Commissioner”). Exceptions to this procedure are set out below as ‘Excluded Complaints’.

Excluded Complaints

5. Section 3(2) of the Scottish Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Act 2002 excludes certain complaints from the remit of the Ethical Standards Commissioner.

6. The complaints mentioned in the following paragraphs are “Excluded Complaints” and should not be made to the Ethical Standards Commissioner—

(a) Complaints about a member’s conduct at a meeting of the Parliament, including a member’s treatment of another member: these are to be referred to the Presiding Officer. Complaints about a member’s conduct at a meeting of a committee, including a member’s treatment of another member: these are to be referred to that committee’s convener, unless the complaint is about the conduct of the convener (including the convener’s treatment of another committee member), in which case the complaint is to be referred to the Presiding Officer. The Presiding Officer, or as the case may be, the committee’s convener will consider the complaint and may refer the complaint to the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee.

(b) Complaints made under Section 8: Engaging with constituents: these are to be referred to the Presiding Officer.

(c) Complaints about a member’s use of the Reimbursement of Members’ Expenses Scheme: these are to be referred to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB). Where, following an investigation (whether as a result of a complaint or claim submitted), the SPCB finds that a member has submitted an improper claim, the SPCB may report the matter to the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee and may recommend the removal of all or part of the member’s entitlement to reimbursement of expenses under the Scheme for such period and to such extent as the SPCB may specify.

(d) Complaints about a member’s treatment of the Parliament’s staff: these are to be made to the Parliament’s Human Resources Office which will investigate the complaint. Complaints about a member’s treatment of the staff of another member: these are to be made to the member’s Business Manager who will investigate. In some cases a joint investigation by the Human Resources Office and Business Managers may be appropriate. In all cases, opportunities for conciliation will be pursued in the first instance. If a complaint cannot be resolved, it will be reported to the SPCB who may refer the complaint to the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee.

(e) Complaints about Cross-Party Groups: these are to be made to the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee unless the complaint relates to the use of Parliamentary facilities and services in which case it should be made to the SPCB. The SPCB may refer any complaint relating to the use of Parliamentary facilities and services by a Cross-Party Group to the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee together with a recommendation for action.

(f) Complaints about use of SPCB facilities and services and breaches of SPCB policies (which do not relate to conduct at a meeting of the Parliament or at a meeting of a committee): these are to be made to the SPCB. The SPCB may refer any complaint relating to the use of Parliamentary facilities and services and breaches of SPCB policies to the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee together with a recommendation for action.

Making a complaint about engagement with constituents

7. Any complaint against a member (including one about their staff or others working for them) in respect of Section 8 of the Code - Engaging with Constituents should in the first instance be made to the Presiding Officer. Any complaint made under this section should meet the requirements set out in Section 9, paragraph 1 of the Guidance on the Code. A complaint which does not meet the requirements set out in paragraph 9.1 may be dismissed by the Presiding Officer as a ‘Procedurally Defective Complaint’.

8. In considering a complaint the Presiding Officer may contact the member(s) concerned to seek a response to the conduct complained about.

9. The Presiding Officer will, if necessary, contact the respective Party Business Manager in relation to a complaint.

10. Where the complaint cannot be resolved in this way, where the matter is of sufficient seriousness to warrant a more formal investigation, or where any MSP directly involved remains dissatisfied, the Presiding Officer will raise the matter with the Convener of the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee.

11. The Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee would then consider the matter as it judges appropriate, in accordance with its procedures and its remit to consider and report on the conduct of members in carrying out their Parliamentary duties.

12. It is fundamental to the success of this Section that the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee will, as a matter of course, treat all breaches of these rules with the utmost seriousness. Members should not raise complaints under Section 8 of the Code in any way other than that described above (in particular via the media) to avoid any suggestion of prejudging the issue.

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