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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 we investigate complaints about us

We are committed to carrying out our duties in an effective, efficient and professional manner. However, sometimes we could do things better and sometimes we will make mistakes. If something goes wrong or you are unhappy with how we have treated you, please tell us.  We value complaints and use information from them to help us improve what we do. 

You can complain about things like:

  • delays in responding to your request
  • providing incorrect advice
  • your treatment by one of our staff
  • the conduct of someone working on our behalf
  • our failure to follow procedures properly.

We cannot accept complaints about the Commissioner’s decisions:

  • on the conduct of MSPs, councillors or board members of public bodies
  • regarding lobbyists
  • following an investigation into a public appointment.

If other procedures or rights of appeal can help you resolve your concerns, we will provide you with further information and advice.

Anyone can make a complaint to us. You may be unable, or reluctant, to make a complaint yourself.  You can ask a friend, relative, or an advocate to complain for you. You can find out about advocates in your area by contacting the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance.

Complete our online complaint form. Alternatively, you can contact us in person, by phone, in writing, or by email. 

When complaining, tell us:

  • your full name and address
  • as much as you can about the complaint
  • what has gone wrong
  • how you want us to resolve the matter.

Normally, you must make your complaint within six months of:

  • the event you want to complain about, or
  • finding out that you have a reason to complain, but no longer than 12 months after the event itself.

In exceptional circumstances, we may be able to accept a complaint after the time limit.  If you feel that the time limit should not apply to your complaint, please tell us why.

We will always tell you who is dealing with your complaint and try to deal with your complaint quickly.  If we can’t because a detailed investigation is needed, we will tell you and keep you updated on our progress.

Our complaints procedure has two stages:

Stage one – frontline resolution

We aim to resolve complaints as soon as possible.  This could mean an on-the-spot apology and explanation if something has clearly gone wrong, and immediate action to resolve the problem.

We will give you our decision at Stage 1 in five working days or less, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

If we can’t resolve your complaint at this stage, we will explain why and tell you what you can do next.  We might suggest that you take your complaint to Stage 2.  You may choose to do this immediately or sometime after you get our initial decision.

Stage two – investigation

Stage 2 deals with two types of complaint: those that have not been resolved at Stage 1 and those that are complex and require detailed investigation.

When using Stage 2 we will:

  • acknowledge receipt of your complaint within three working days
  • where appropriate, discuss your complaint with you to understand why you remain dissatisfied and what outcome you are looking for
  • give you a full response to the complaint as soon as possible and within 20 working days.

If our investigation will take longer than 20 working days, we will tell you.  We will agree revised time limits with you and keep you updated on progress.

You can ask the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) to look at it. The SPSO cannot normally look at:

  • complaints that have not come to us first
  • events that happened, or that you became aware of, more than a year ago
  • a matter that has been or is being considered in court
  • a matter that falls outwith the SPSO’s jurisdiction.