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sportscotland - good practice in planning and publicity - 2017

Key learning outcomes

  • Running a round to find multiple members can be a great opportunity to bring in new people with diverse skills and backgrounds. This works best when there are distinct specifications for the different attributes sought
  • Explaining to applicants why the board needs certain skills enhances transparency and encourages applications
  • Using video clips on social media of current board members telling their story attracts a younger and more diverse pool than traditional publicity
  • Being explicit in publicity that higher level board experience isn’t required makes roles more attractive to a wider range of people
  • Making “committed to diversity and equality” an essential criterion for all roles makes a difference to the outcome
  • Testing fewer and more focused criteria at the application stage attracts a wider and more diverse pool to apply.


The Scottish Government contacted us in July 2015 and advised us that it wanted to run a chair appointment round first and then to follow it with an appointment round to find two members. The chair was appointed in February 2016. That appointment round is also featured as a good practice case study on our website. 

During planning it was decided that the round would be used to find up to four members. To provide continuity, the Public Appointments Adviser (PAA) who was a panel member on the chair round remained allocated to this assignment. The round was designated as medium level such that the PAA stayed on until the panel had completed its planning but wasn’t involved in the stages of assessment.


Pre-planning took place between July and October 2016 to fully consider the board’s needs and the views of the new chair and the appointing minister. Diversity was central to the selection panel’s discussions reflecting the experience and commitment of the new board chair as well as the overall aims of sportscotland. 

The panel defined four priority skill areas, clearly aligned to the needs of the board. Applicants had to demonstrate at least one of these

  1. experience and knowledge of the contribution which sport can make at one or more of the different levels of the sporting system
  2. knowledge of the links between business/commercial sectors and sport.
  3. communications and particularly the use of social media
  4. knowledge of how an organisation can benefit from the use of digital technologies to make it more efficient and effective.

All applicants also had to meet four more general criteria inclusive of ‘committed to promoting equality and diversity’. 

The core skills framework was used with bullet descriptors providing clarity for both applicants and the selection panel about what evidence was expected for each of the criteria for selection. The panel also added an extra column into the person specification to explain why each of the criteria were being sought and why the experience/skills were important to sportscotland and the board at this point in time. This was intended to help applicants to understand how each of the attributes sought would contribute to the work of the body. 

The panel wanted to ensure that applicants understood that ‘high level’ experience was not essential and stressed that they were particularly interested in applicants with a community or volunteering background. This was made clear in the publicity and in the pack.  

The panel decided on assessment via a written application followed by an interview, which was to include completion of a practical exercise which simulated an aspect of board activity. Applicants had to evidence only two criteria for selection in their written application. Applicants were asked to evidence their nominated priority criterion and they were also given the opportunity to provide brief evidence of any of the other priority criteria which they believed they were able to fully demonstrate within an overall word limit. All applicants were also asked to evidence the general equality and diversity criterion. 

The PAA assisted with the design of the practical exercise. It was based on the issues/considerations arising from a research paper and was designed to enable applicants to evidence two of the general criteria

  • examining information and making decisions and 
  • communicating and influencing effectively.


As well as via the usual routes, including the appointed for Scotland website, publicity was via networking by the board itself and the directorate. Unsuccessful applicants from the prior chair appointment round were also directly contacted and encouraged to apply. 

The body prepared video clip interviews with current sportscotland board members for its website. A link to these was circulated via Twitter, using hashtag #GetOnBoard, and other media channels. This same approach had been successfully used on a recent appointment round for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. This personal touch was intended to make a difference to people’s motivation to apply for roles. Use of video profiles and social media was also intended to reach out to a younger audience as younger people are a currently underrepresented group on boards. The clips and the accompanying narrative also very importantly conveyed some clear and compelling messages about the open and inclusive culture of the body and the board. This has a proven impact on the willingness of people from currently underrepresented groups to apply for roles. The clips and accompanying narrative are still available to view on the sportscotland website.


The round was so successful that the Minister approached the Commissioner to make a case for five appointments to be made, rather than the original four, due to the quality of the candidates. It’s clear that the approach taken led to the attraction of younger people with the Diversity Delivers target for applications from this underrepresented group being exceeded. People from this group and women also progressed well through the appointments process.

The enhanced processes used for planning and design of this competition, the early proactive contact with the minister, the use of the adapted core skills framework and the arrangements for assessment all contributed to a successful outcome. 

More information

You can obtain more detailed information on any of the materials referred to in this brief report from Ian Bruce, the Public Appointments Manager in the CESPLS office:
Tel: 0131 347 3897

The chair of the selection panel, Derek Grieve, Head of the Active Scotland Division, is also happy to be contacted by fellow panel chairs for more information. 

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