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In some circumstances, it can currently take up to 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.


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 their 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. Their 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.

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 their team)

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

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.

Please note that time limits apply. The details for each type of complaint are available on our How We Investigate pages.

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 their team if you don’t think we’ve followed proper procedure.

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
EH1 3DG 

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

Please note that time limits apply. The details for each type of complaint are available on our How We Investigate pages.

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?