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In some circumstances, it can currently take up to 4 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.


When the Ethical Standards Commissioner investigates a complaint, they may need to gather evidence from witnesses. These witnesses normally include the person making the complaint and the person being investigated, and will be identified by an Investigating Officer assigned to the case.

Any other witnesses will be limited to those who can give a clear picture of the circumstances surrounding the case – an investigation must be thorough, but it also needs to be as quick and efficient as possible. With that in mind, some information may be gathered by a telephone call.

If you’re required as a witness, you will receive a letter inviting you to attend. Confidentiality is important, especially if you’re a whistleblower requiring anonymity, so we’ll take great care with the timing and location of interviews, and how we keep in touch during the process.

At the start of the interview, we’ll explain the process and the likely timescales, and reiterate the need for confidentiality. Interviews are not normally recorded – the Investigating Officer or a colleague will take notes. However, you’ll get the chance to make final comments before the end of the interview. Interview notes are confidential and can only be released in limited circumstances under data protection or freedom of information legislation, when sensitive personal information will be redacted.

After the investigation is complete and the Commissioner issues their findings, they will – in the interests of transparency – normally disclose the identity of some witnesses.  These are:

  • All respondents
  • All complainers
  • MSPs, local authority councillors and/or board members of a public body
  • Chief officials and/or their equivalent 

Only the job title of other officials will be disclosed, unless their identity is integral to the understanding of the outcome. In such cases, the individual will be advised in writing (in advance of the decision being published) why disclosure is considered necessary. 

When reports of investigations are published on our website, the complainer’s name won’t be revealed, unless they’re an MSP, councillor or board member of a public body. The identity of all other witnesses will be protected – with whistleblowers given specific rights to anonymity under current legislation.

Making a complaint

We investigate complaints about the behaviour of MSPs, local authority councillors, and board members of public bodies and about lobbyists.

Making a complaint

How we investigate

Are you considering making a complaint? Have you complained to us already? Would you like to know more about what happens next? Here’s how we’ll investigate your complaint.

How we investigate