DISRESPECT, bullying and harassment claims have made up the vast majority of complaints about Scotland’s councillors and devolved public body members in the last year, a new report has shown.

The Standards Commission for Scotland made the revelation as it laid its annual report before the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

The document covers the period from April 1 2021 to March 31 2022.

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The commission is responsible for encouraging high standards of behaviour from councillors and those appointed to boards of devolved public bodies.

It promotes and enforces codes of conduct in doing so, as well as issuing guidance to councils and public bodies. This includes further education colleges, NHS Boards, regional transport partnerships and health and social care joint integration boards. 

Sanctions are applied where a breach of standards is found.

The commission said that during the period covered, it made a final decision on complaints about 28 councillors and members of public bodies, including five public hearings.

One hearing resulted in disqualification for the respondent involved, meaning they were prohibited from being a councillor, being nominated for election or being elected as a councillor for up to five years.

Four hearings found there was no breach, and therefore no sanction was implemented.

The Standards Commission also produced guidance and advice notes on the codes of conduct, which seek to help councillors and members understand and comply with requirements, and worked alongside the acting ethical standards commissioner to improve the processes for both investigating and adjudicating complaints.

Paul Walker, convener for the Standards Commission, said: “Adherence to the principles and codes of conduct is crucial to ensure the public has trust and confidence in those in public life.

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“A successful democracy relies on there being individuals who are willing to stand for public office and also relies on the public trusting public institutions and bodies.

“Our work – to promote good leadership, integrity, high ethical standards and respectful behaviour – remains vital and has never been more relevant in a political climate that’s become very polarised and where social media is often adversarial in nature.”

The commission said it will continue to work with stakeholders to promote its ethical standards framework over the coming year.