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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.

Privacy notice for Witnesses

This privacy notice describes how we collect and use your personal information if you are a witness providing information regarding complaint about the conduct of a Councillor, Board Member, MSP or lobbyist. It explains how we'll store and handle your data, and keep it safe. 

Further information about how we process personal data is available in our main Privacy Policy.

We collect information about you when:

  • We contact you for information or evidence
  • You contact us to provide information or evidence
  • We conduct an interview
  • We are looking at your statement and need more information to make a decision 
  • You ask us to change any information you have given 
  • You complain about us

We will ask you to provide:

  • Your name and contact details
  • The name(s) of those connected to the complaint
  • A description of the conduct/incident you witnessed
  • The date the incident happened

We may ask you to provide:

  • The names and possibly the contact details of others involved
  • Further evidence including any documents, photos, screenshots, and copies of correspondence, emails or text messages.
  • Names and contact details of any legal advisors or others providing support
  • Details about how we can make our service accessible to you

In assessing the complaint, we might gather the following which may contain information about you:

  • Evidence from other parties 
  • Internal documentation about your statement

We will record and store your information in our electronic filing systems. You can find out more in the Storing your personal information section of our Privacy Policy.

All details relating to your information or evidence are stored in an electronic case file. Any additional material we receive or generate will be stored in this case file. 

In order to obtain and assess evidence we may have to share large electronic files with you and other parties involved in the case. These may be too large to share by email. Where this is the case we use the file sharing platform WeTransfer. You will be advised when we intend to use this service. You can find out more about how WeTransfer manages personal data in their Privacy & Cookie statement. If preferred, alternative transfer methods may be available.

We will consider the information you have provided to our investigation. In some cases, we produce a report, once we have gathered and considered all the evidence. This report will summarise the investigation, and our view on whether there has been a breach of the Code or other relevant provisions.

  • Where we find that a Councillor or Board Member has broken the rules that they are meant to follow, our report will be issued to the Standards Commission for Scotland.
  • Where we find that a MSP or lobbyist has broken the rules that they are meant to follow, our report will be issued to the Scottish Parliament.

Before issuing the final report to the relevant authority, we will also issue a draft report to the person complained about, inviting their comments.

Information you give us could be included in the report. If so, you will be anonymised as far as possible. We will not name you in the report unless we have a legal obligation to do so. There may be some occasions where it is not possible to report on an investigation without reference to information which will reveal that source. As such, we are unable to guarantee anonymity. 

Our report may include the following:

  • The facts found by the Commissioner which may include materials from you
  • The response by the person complained about regarding your statements and our report
  • The Commissioner’s conclusions

The ESC is covered by Freedom of Information laws. This means that anyone can ask us for the information that we hold including personal data. If we get a such a request, the evidence or information you provide, or any interview notes we take would not normally be shared. However, there may be circumstances in which we have to release information. We are very unlikely to do this without first informing you or seeking your opinion.

The information you provide is typically retained for three years for complaints about Councillors, Board Members, and lobbyists. For complaints about MSP(s) it is typically retained for five years. Further details are available in our File Plan and Retention Schedule. Your data will be held in line with our Records Management Policy.

We have powers under the Scottish Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Act 2002 to process your personal data in this way.