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Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd – Good practice in planning and publicity - 2018

Key learning outcomes

  • Taking time to plan the round – the Commissioner published a thematic review in 2018 which examined succession planning and learning lessons in appointment rounds.  This review identified that taking time to plan a round, ideally involving early consideration of the longer term strategic needs of the board alongside information available from other rounds, will assist in succession planning and a successful outcome for the round.
  • Use of social media encourages more women and 1st time applicants to apply. Our applicant research shows that women and 1st time applicants are more likely to find out about appointment opportunities through these routes than the overall cohort of applicants responding to the survey.
  • Ensuring adequate time for assessment of each applicant helps to mitigate bias within the appointments process.  The Commissioner has published guidance on mitigating unconscious and other forms of bias during appointments rounds and a guide to assessment and recording assessments which help to assist panels in ensuring that they are using the best possible techniques and approaches to assessment.


Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) is a public body wholly owned by Scottish Ministers.  The Company operates and manages eleven Airports in the Highlands and Islands and Dundee Airport.  These Airports provide economic and social benefits to their communities, helping them to stay connected.  None of the airports operate on a solely commercial basis, with the Scottish Government providing a subsidy to HIAL via Transport Scotland, to close the gap between commercial revenue and operating costs.  Historically, the aviation industry is heavily male dominated and therefore, alongside consideration of all aspects of diversity, a specific focus on attracting women to apply was needed.


The Scottish Government contacted us in October 2017 and advised us that it wanted to run a chair appointment round.  As this was an unexpected vacancy, it was expedited quickly, but still ensured that full priority was given to planning, including an early engagement meeting where the longer-term strategic needs of the board could be considered in depth.  Management information from previous rounds and applicant views were also considered.  One of the panel members was an HR director, whose input was particularly valuable when developing the recruitment process, particularly in relation to the commercial aspects of the body which are relatively unusual for public body boards.


A substantial social media exercise was carried out to advertise the position, making use of the Transport Scotland network whose Twitter account has over 100,000 followers.  This might help to account for the fact that approximately one quarter of applications received were from applicants who had never previously made an application for a public appointment. 


After considering alternative assessment methods, a fairly traditional assessment approach of presentation and interview was considered appropriate for this round including ensuring that plenty of time was allowed for follow up questions and probing.


The panel agreed that a combination of taking time to plan the appointment round carefully combined with an enhanced social media marketing campaign was the key to successfully concluding this appointment round.

The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson MSP announced the appointment of Lorna Jack as Chair of the Board of Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) on 31st January 2019.

More Information

More detailed information on any of the materials referred to in this report is available from Ian Bruce, Public Appointments Manager, Ethical Standards Commissioner.
Tel: 0131 347 3897 

You can find out who was appointed by following this link to the press release.