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In some circumstances, it can currently take up to 4.5 months to conduct an initial assessment for some complaints, particularly if they are complex. We are doing everything we can to reduce this time. You can find average timescales for each stage of complaint handling across all types of complaints here.

How to apply

We encourage people from all walks to life to consider applying for a regulated public appointment. All current vacancies and more details about how to apply are available on the Scottish Government's Public Appointments web page.

Scottish Government Public Appointments web page

Scottish Ministers make the appointments to the Boards of public bodies, and the selection process is run on their behalf by Scottish Government officials. The Commissioner plays a key role in ensuring these appointments are made on merit, using methods that are fair and open, and reflect the diversity of Scottish society today.

The following information will help you understand what to expect when applying for a regulated public appointment. There’s also information about the role and barriers to applying and advice on how to make the best possible application.

Please follow this link for our Q&A on the regulation of Public Appointments, including a BSL translation. 

The roles of the Ethical Standards Commissioner and the Scottish Government 

The Commissioner's role is to monitor and regulate the system used to make appointments to the boards of Scotland's public bodies. We ensure that this is done in a way that is fair, open and based on merit.  

We do not run the process or make the appointments.

It is the Scottish Ministers who are responsible for making appointments to public bodies fairly, openly and based on merit. The appointments process is run by civil servants within the Scottish Government, on behalf of Scottish Ministers, and they organise and run appointment rounds to select the most appropriate people to serve on the boards of Scotland's public bodies.  

All current vacancies are available on the Scottish Government’s Public Appointments web page. You can also register your interest in upcoming appointments and apply through their website.

Scottish Government Public Appointments web page 


What to expect when applying for a regulated appointment

Not every appointment to a public body is regulated. Whether an appointment is regulated or not is determined by law. We keep an up to date list of all regulated bodies.

Every appointment must comply with the Code of Practice and any formal guidance issued by the Commissioner. This means that some aspects will be the same every time you apply. For example:

  • You will be assessed against the requirements set out in the person specification.  Even if you have additional skills, knowledge and experience that you believe would be helpful to the body, these cannot be considered.
  • Publicity and adverts about the post must be clearly and plainly drafted using simple, easy to understand, language.
  • Key information will be given to all applicants in every round. Annex 2 of the Code describes this information.
  • The application pack will always set out critical dates. This ensures you know possible interview/assessment dates and when you might hear the outcome of your application. In exceptional circumstances one or more of the dates may change, but you will be notified of this if it will affect your application.
  • There will always be some form of “fit and proper person” test, checking that you are a suitable applicant. The form that the fit and proper person test takes may vary between rounds.
  • If you are successful, the Minister will announce your appointment publicly, usually through a news release on the Scottish Government's Public Appointments web page. Section G of the Code describes what information should be published.

Where an appointment doesn't comply with the Code of Practice in a material way then the Commissioner has to report that to the Scottish Parliament. 

The Code and guidance are intended to be flexible. This allows selection panels to choose from a range of methods to select the most suitable candidates and to attract the widest pool of applicants possible. This means that rounds will feel different, depending on the position applied for and the needs of the body at the time.

  • The skills, knowledge, experience and any other relevant attributes sought will be unique to each body. This will be based on a combination of the circumstances facing the body at that time and the attributes provided by other board members.
  • The number of selection panel members will vary – normally there will be between two and four, but occasionally more.
  • An independent panel member may be appointed to provide a fresh perspective or to represent a group with a specific interest.
  • A Public Appointments Adviser (the Commissioner’s representative) could be involved as panel member during early or planning phases only, or as full panel member and overseeing the process end-to-end. 
  • The panel may invite a specialist to undertake a specific part of the assessment process although this person will not be a full panel member.
  • The appointing minister can choose to meet short-listed applicants.  However, this will not always happen.

The Code of Practice aims to remove unnecessary delays. The application pack must include the interview date(s) and planned date of appointment, so you can plan your time. The appointment process should take up to 16 and no more than 20 weeks from start to finish. We publish information about the time appointments take in our annual reports.

Some appointment rounds attract a large response, with over 100 applications being received, but this is the exception rather than the rule. 

Other appointments might require specialist skills or a substantial time-commitment, or just be less popular, so only a handful of people apply. Either way, if you are selected for interview you are usually among the top six to eight candidates for the post.

The ESC provides independent scrutiny of the methods and practices employed by the Scottish Ministers for making appointments. The Commissioner does this by allocating a Public Appointments Adviser (PAA) to oversee all or part of the process. Like the Commissioner they are independent of and do not answer to Ministers or public bodies. The role of the PAA is to promote compliance with the Code by providing advice and guidance to selection panels on the Code's provisions, and on good practice in recruitment and selection.

The Commissioner decides on the appropriate level of oversight for each regulated appointment based on a range of factors, including the body’s budget and its functions. The assigned PAA has a different level of involvement depending on the oversight allocated. This could include involvement during early or planning phases only, or as full panel member and overseeing the process end-to-end. More details are included in the guidance on application of the Code. 

PAAs also work closely with the Scottish Government to provide advice and guidance to help improve practice throughout the process. They can also be involved in ad hoc project work.

PAAs are consultants who work to a contract (Service Level Agreement) and we recruit new PAAs using a tender. 

Tenders are published on our website. Broadly speaking knowledge of good practice in recruitment and selection and of interpreting and applying a system of regulation or law are likely to be requirements. Full details will be available in the tender documents.

Go to the Public Appointment Advisers page for more information about current PAAs. If you would like to be informed of any future PAA tender, please contact us.

The provision of meaningful feedback to people is one of the Principles of the Code of Practice. If you apply for a post and are not invited for interview you can ask for feedback on your application (within a specified time limit). All interviewees should be given feedback on their performance on request. This feedback should be constructive and specific to your experience. This means that if you aren’t successful the first time, you will be better able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your application and make improvements for future appointment rounds.

If you are unhappy with your experience in a recent appointment round, have concerns about the process or if you believe an appointment has not been made appropriately, you can raise a complaint. Complaints should be raised with the Scottish Government in the first instance so that officials have a chance to respond. If you are unhappy with their response, you can ask the Commissioner to investigate for you. Please check our section on how we investigate complaints about public appointments for more information. 

If you would like any advice before raising a formal complaint you can contact us using the details provided on our website

All current vacancies are available on the Scottish Government’s Public Appointments web page. You can also register your interest in upcoming appointments and apply through this website.

Scottish Government Public Appointments web page


What does the board member role involve?

You can find out more on the Scottish Government's Public Appointments web page.

Scottish Government Public Appointment Web page 


Some appointments are paid; others are not. In many cases, you will be able to claim back any reasonable travel, subsistence and care costs.

The real reward for any public appointment is the difference you can make. By playing your role in the leadership of Scotland's public bodies, you will support the Scottish Government in achieving its purpose of creating a more successful country. It also offers the opportunity to gain new transferable skills and valuable experience to take into your future career. 

The application pack will give full details about the remuneration package available.

The induction you receive will depend on the organisation you join. You should expect some form of introduction from the Chair, Chief Executive or other key personnel - in addition to a Scottish Government guidance manual

The Scottish Government runs an induction workshop three times a year for new board members. Beyond general induction, additional training on an ongoing individual basis may be arranged by the body you are appointed to.

What is and isn’t a barrier to applying?

The information below will help you understand whether there is anything which could prevent you from applying. For some appointments, there may be specific disqualifications. These will always be set out clearly in the application pack.

The “fit and proper person” test checks whether you are a suitable applicant against the nine principles of public life in Scotland.

It also checks that:

  • your conduct to date has been compatible with the public appointment,
  • you have no inappropriate or unmanageable conflicts of interest,
  • you are not barred by a requirement set out in the constitution of the body and 
  • you are able to able to meet the time commitment.

Every applicant is asked to make a statement confirming that they consider themselves suitable under the “fit and proper person” test.  If invited to interview, you may also be questioned on this.  

You will also be asked to provide information about any political activity you undertake. This is not a bar to appointment but the panel may explore your response and it may be taken into consideration as part of the fit and proper person test.

The exact form of the fit and proper person test may vary between rounds.

You can find out more on the Scottish Government's Public Appointments web page.

Scottish Government Public Appointments web page 

You may be asked about certain convictions. 

Most convictions become ‘spent’ after a certain period of time and you no longer have to declare them. There are some exceptions to this rule, for example, if you applied for an appointment which would bring you into contact with children or other vulnerable groups. In these cases, all previous convictions, spent or unspent, will be relevant to assessing your suitability. 

If you are required to provide information about your criminal history through a Disclosure Scotland check, this will be made clear in the application pack.

Even if you do have convictions to declare, they won’t necessarily prevent you from being appointed. It will depend entirely on the nature of the conviction(s) and the position in question.

Your employment status (including any gaps in employment) should have nothing to do with how well you meet requirements of the role. However, in some instances it may be a requirement to be employed in a specialist role (for example, a requirement to be a practising lawyer in order to join an organisation involved in legal matters). How you gained your skills and knowledge is not important. What matters is that you have the ability to fill the role concerned.

You can find out more on the Scottish Government's Public Appointments web page.

Scottish Government Public Appointments web page

You can find out more on the Scottish Government's Public Appointments web page.

Scottish Government Public Appointments web page

No physical or mental condition should be a barrier to you applying. If you require any adjustments or help when applying, contact the Scottish Government's public appointments team. The adjustments available will vary depending on your condition. Some examples include dictating your application, translating documents into braille or BSL or holding an interview in an accessible venue.

If you are to be appointed, you will still have to prove yourself the best candidate. As far as possible, you will be given the opportunity to demonstrate your merit and participate fully in the selection process on an equal basis to other applicants.

If your condition is considered to be a disability under the Equality Act 2010 you have a right to request reasonable adjustments and protection against discrimination based on your disability. Visit the Equality and Human Rights Commission website to find out more.

If you are appointed to the board, the body will consider any reasonable adjustments needed.

If you make (or have ever made) a complaint about a public appointment, this will not have any bearing on your future applications. Both the Commissioner and the Scottish Government recognise the importance of encouraging and addressing complaints about the appointments process. Your comments and feedback are invaluable in helping us improve the process.

How to find out more

All current vacancies are available on the Scottish Government’s Public Appointments web page. You can also register your interest in upcoming appointments and apply through this web page.

The Scottish Government runs ‘Come on Board’ events around four times a year. At the events, current board members talk about their experience of applying and being appointed to their position. You’ll have the opportunity to ask questions about applying. The events are held in the early evening at a city centre venue.

If you register your interest in public appointments on the Scottish Government's Public Appointments web page, details about forthcoming events will be emailed to you. 

We encourage applications from people currently under-represented on the boards of our public bodies. This includes women, people with a disability, people from the black and minority ethnic communities and younger people. We offer briefing sessions about public appointments for organisations or networks primarily made up of such groups. Please contact us to enquire about holding a session.

You may be interested in a position, but are unsure whether to apply. The application pack includes contact details for someone you can talk to about the role and the application process. Neither we nor the Scottish Government can give you help to apply for a specific appointment but we can give general advice on applying and on the appointment process.

Making a good application

Your application is very important. It’s the document that will determine whether or not you proceed to the next stage. In it, you must clearly demonstrate how you meet the published criteria for the post. Selection panels can only assess you against the published criteria. You must provide evidence of how you meet each one of the criteria that the form asks for. Providing evidence of your skills, knowledge and experience in this way may be new to you.

We’ve provided some hints and tips on how to apply.

Selection panels will assess your application against the requirements published in the person specification. New requirements are not introduced. The panel will only take into account the level you have worked at (seniority) or how recent your skills, knowledge and experience are if it has been made clear in the person specification that these elements are important.

The selection panel will undertake most of the assessment. Although it may delegate some elements to suitably qualified individuals. For example, the running of assessment centre exercises or, when a significant number of people apply, the first assessment of written applications.

You can find examples of assessment methods used in our good practice case studies.

You can also find more detailed help and guidance on the Scottish Government's Public Appointments web page.

The selection panel will usually test skills through the written application or by using competency based or performance-based questioning at interview. This means that you will usually be asked to provide examples of previous situations where you have used your skills.

The panel may also use an assessment centre approach – which means using more than one method to assess the criteria for selection - to test certain skills such as team working and/or communications. Panels may also set specific tasks such as asking you to review a board paper (assessing your analysis and judgment) or asking you to make a presentation (assessing your communication and presentation skills).

The panel will establish not just whether you have used a given skill but how good you are at putting it into practice. The panel will identify the applicants who are best at putting their skills into practice.

You may be asked to demonstrate knowledge in a specific area. The panel may ask for a ‘a working knowledge’. They will look for evidence that you’ve used your knowledge in practical situations and will ask you to provide examples of this. The panel will only require a working knowledge if this has been made clear in the person specification.

The panel will usually test your knowledge by questioning your understanding of the subject area. The panel may also set a test or exam either online or as part of an assessment centre exercise. The application pack will detail the assessment methods to be used. The panel will establish not just whether you have the knowledge but how in-depth it is. The panel will identify the applicants who are most knowledgeable in the subject area.

In some cases, although rarely, the role may require a qualification. If so, this will always be made explicit in the person specification. Usually, you will be asked to confirm having the qualification in the application form. This can then be checked with the awarding body.

Where the panel is seeking ‘experience’, they will usually include a ‘Life History’ section in the application form or ask you to provide a tailored CV or a letter.

You will be asked to set out the roles you have held or the activities that you have undertaken that are relevant. The person specification may include guidance about what type of activity or previous roles may be relevant.

Experience does not have to have been gained in a professional capacity. Experience gained in your personal life and from any voluntary work is equally valid. In some cases, the panel may be seeking personal experience in an area. For example, direct experience of social exclusion or first-hand experience of disability access issues.

The panel will compare what you have written in your application against the experience it is looking for. They will identify the applicants who are the closest match. The panel may ask follow-up questions at interview to see how effective you have been in previous roles. The person specification will make is clear if interview questions are planned.

If you are finding it difficult to complete your application or are worried about attending the interview/assessment, contact the public appointments team for assistance. It may be that you can be offered a reasonable adjustment which would help you apply successfully.

The following are some activities that will make you better prepared for a role on a board. For example:

  • positions of responsibility - through work/voluntary work/hobbies;
  • activities demonstrate or build on your ability to speak up, to influence opinions and outcomes;
  • devising and delivering reasoned arguments;
  • working in a team to address issues and problems;
  • knowledge in a particular field, or a particular type of public service;
  • any activity which demonstrates communication skills, and the ability to challenge and question;
  • first hand/lived experience of issues of particular relevance to a board and/or those that use its services;
  • a general awareness of political issues;
  • activities which demonstrate sensitivity, insight or empathy where difficult issues are concerned. 

The skills, knowledge, experience and personal qualities required will depend on the sort of role you wish to apply for. Boards need a balance of different skills and knowledge - your in-depth knowledge in one area might outweigh your inexperience in another.