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Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs)

Code of Conduct for MSPs

The Code of Conduct provides a set of principles and standards for Members of the Scottish Parliament.

Code of Conduct (6 May 2021)

Code of Conduct Guidance (6 May 2021)


Contents


Section 7: General conduct of MSPs

1. Members must comply with the requirements of this Code of Conduct (the Code), with the Standing Orders, and with any other decision of the Parliament relating to the conduct of MSPs.

2. This section of the Code sets out some rules on general conduct which MSPs must follow.

SPCB policies

3. Members must abide by the policies that are adopted by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB). These policies are set out in the library of policies created by the SPCB on the Scottish Parliament website.

Read the policies for Members

Expenses

4. No improper use should be made of any payment or allowance made to members for public purposes. Members must abide by the Reimbursement of Members’ Expenses Scheme agreed by the Parliament.

Read about the Members Expenses Scheme

Treatment of others

5. Members must treat the following individuals with courtesy and respect:

  • other MSPs; 
  • parliamentary staff (including contractors providing services to the Parliament); 
  • their own staff and the staff of other MSPs. 

6. Members must not behave in a manner towards those individuals in 7.5 or any individuals they are in contact with in their capacity as MSPs that involves bullying, harassment (including sexual harassment), or any other inappropriate behaviour.

Use of parliamentary staff

7. Staff of the Parliament are employed by the SPCB to provide an impartial service to the Parliament and its members. Members should not ask Parliamentary staff to act in any way which would conflict with or call into question their political impartiality, or which could give rise to criticisms that people paid from public funds are being used for party political purposes.

8. Members should respect the confidentiality of advice, whether written or oral, received from clerks or other Parliamentary staff and should avoid attributing advice or views to a named member of staff.

Conduct in the Chamber and committees

9. Members must conduct themselves in accordance with the following Standing Orders rules during meetings in the Chamber and, as appropriate, in committee meetings.

“Members shall at all times conduct themselves in a courteous and respectful manner and shall respect the authority of the Presiding Officer. In particular, members shall not speak or stand when the Presiding Officer is speaking.” (Rule 7.3.1)

“Members shall at all times conduct themselves in an orderly manner and, in particular, shall not conduct themselves in a manner which would constitute a criminal offence or contempt of court.” (Rule 7.3.2)

10. In committees and sub-committees, Standing Orders require that members respect the authority of the convener.

11. Members must abide by the guidance issued by the Presiding Officer on members’ conduct in the Chamber and, as appropriate, in committees. The current guidance issued by the Presiding Officer can be found in the separate guidance on the Code.

Confidentiality rules

12. All drafts of committee reports, and committee reports which, although agreed by a committee and no longer in draft, have not yet been published, must be kept confidential, unless the committee decides otherwise. In addition, the following must be treated as confidential —

- briefing provided to members by Parliamentary staff for particular members’ information only;

- documents produced during a private session of a committee;

- evidence submitted to a committee sitting in private from a witness which it has been agreed can be treated as confidential;

- any other documents or information which the committee has agreed must be treated as confidential; and

- minutes of private discussions.

13. Unless the Parliament or the relevant committee has agreed otherwise, such documents must not be circulated, shown, or transmitted in any other way to members of the public (including those in Cross-Party Groups), media or to any member of any organisation outwith the Parliament, including the Scottish Government, nor to other MSPs who are not members of the committee or committees for whom the material was intended.

14. Members must not provide the media with any other briefings or views on the general contents ‘line’ of draft committee reports or other confidential material or information. Disclosures of this kind can also seriously undermine and devalue the work of committees.

15. Unless the Parliament or the relevant committee has agreed otherwise, members must not disclose any information to which a member has privileged access, for example, derived from a confidential document or details of discussions or votes taken in private session, either orally or in writing.

16. Where a committee member wishes to express dissent from a committee report, the member should only make this public once the committee report has been published in order to avoid disclosing the conclusions of a draft report.

Members’ responsibilities

17. Members‘ staff carry out their duties as employees both within and outwith the Parliamentary complex and have dealings with those individuals mentioned in paragraph 7.5. 

18. Consistent with their duties as employers, members must take all reasonable steps to ensure that their staff are fully aware of, understand and abide by the policies, rules, requirements and behavioural standards that apply to the conduct of staff when carrying out their duties both within and outwith the Parliamentary complex and in dealing with those individuals mentioned in paragraph 7.5. 

19. If a member becomes aware that a member of their staff has not abided by any policies, rules, requirements or behavioural standards, that member must take appropriate action in relation to their member of staff. 

20. On occasion, MSPs‘ staff will handle confidential information. MSPs must ensure that their staff or any other persons accessing or handling confidential documents or information listed in paragraphs 12 – 15 on their behalf comply with the confidentiality rules. MSPs will be held responsible for any breach by these parties.