Complaints

If you think someone in public office has not behaved properly, you may be able to complain to the Ethical Standards Commissioner. The Commissioner and her team investigate complaints against MSPs, local authority councillors or board members of public bodies when they’ve breached a code of conduct which applies to them. We also look into how people are appointed to the boards of regulated public bodies, and investigate complaints about lobbyists. You can even complain about us – or the Commissioner – if you don’t think we’ve followed proper procedure.

Make a complaint

What happens next?

The Ethical Standards Commissioner is completely independent and has the power to investigate a range of complaints. Her findings are taken seriously and fed back to the Standards Commission for Scotland or the Scottish Parliament. However, complaining can sometimes be daunting, so here are answers to the most common questions people ask.

Who can you complain about? Toggle accordion

Most people in public office in Scotland, including:

  • Local authority councillors
  • MSPs (Members of the Scottish Parliament)
  • Board members of regulated public bodies
  • Lobbyists
  • Us (the Ethical Standards Commissioner and his team)

You can also complain about a public appointment if you don’t think it was conducted properly.

What can we investigate? Toggle accordion

We will look into a complaint if you believe that someone in public office has not behaved properly. Standards of behaviour are set out in codes of conduct for councillors, MSPs and members of public bodies. We will assess whether or not the code of conduct has been followed.

Normally, you should make your complaint within 12 months of the date you became aware of the problem.

We can investigate complaints about how a public appointment was made. Appointments to the boards of public bodies should be carried out in line with the Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies in Scotland.

We can also investigate complaints that lobbyists have failed to submit the required information about their lobbying activities.  

You can complain about the Ethical Standards Commissioner and her team if you don’t think we’ve followed proper procedure.
 

What can’t we investigate? Toggle accordion

Missed refuse collections, NHS waiting times, train delays, tax, social security... In short, any complaint about a council or public body failing to meet service standards.

We can’t look into complaints about how a council or public body is run or the conduct of their employees, or about the conduct of community councillors. 

If you have concerns in these areas, you’ll find details about how to complain on the local authority or public body’s website. You can find more information on how to complain about public services on the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman’s website.

SPSO – How to complain


We can’t investigate the conduct of an MSP when they’re acting as a Minister of the Scottish Government. Ministers’ behaviour is governed by the Scottish Ministerial Code. If you believe a Minister has breached this code, you should send your complaint to:

The First Minister
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

scottish.ministers@gov.scot 

Conduct by someone in a private or non-official capacity is outside our remit too.

Normally, you should make your complaint within 12 months of the date you became aware of the problem.

What should your complaint include? Toggle accordion

Our online complaints form is designed to make the process easy. Before you get started, it may help to gather some important information.

  • Who are you complaining about?
  • Are they an MSP, a councillor or a board member?
  • Which local authority or public body is involved?
  • What are you complaining about?
  • When did the incident happen?
  • Have you complained to anyone else first?
  • Do you have any supporting documents?

Recent decision summaries

View all decisions

Councillor – Disrespect towards another councillor

The complainer alleged that Councillor A had acted disrespectfully by posting comments on Facebook which were critical of a councillor from another local authority (Councillor B).

Councillor – Misconduct relating to a planning application and disrespect towards the public

Councillor A used an expression (the ‘indigenous’ community) that implied unfairness and bias in his consideration of a planning application