THE CONVENER of Shetland Islands Council has welcomed a new consultation on a possible refresh of the code of conduct for councillors across Scotland.
One of the reasons for the proposed changes in the code of conduct is to reinforce the importance of behaving in a respectful manner and to make it clear that bullying and harassment is “completely unacceptable and should not be tolerated”.
There is also a focus on using social media responsibly, while stronger rules are proposed about around councillors accepting gifts.
Shetland Islands Council convener Malcolm Bell said he welcomed the consultation on the proposed updates, which should “ensure it remains relevant and fit for purpose”.
“The councillors’ code of conduct is an important document based around the Nolan Principles for Public Life,” he added.
“It clearly sets out the basic standards expected of those who hold elected office, in order to maintain and enhance the trust the public has in its councillors in particular and local government in general.”
The code of conduct was last substantially reviewed over ten years ago.
Regarding social media, it is proposed that the document should state: “I will treat everyone with courtesy and respect. This includes in person, in writing, at meetings, when I am representing the council and when I am online and using social media.”
Other possible changes include the mention of sexual harassment alongside rules against bullying and harassment.
It also says that councillors should accept that “disrespect, bullying and harassment can be a one-off incident, part of a cumulative course of conduct, or a pattern of behaviour”.
The provisions concerning gifts and hospitality have been amended to make it clear that they should not be sought or accepted unless it is a minor gift, such as a pen or notepad, or is hospitality that a councillor would normally be expected to be offered in their everyday role – such as tea or coffee at a local event.
“The intention is to avoid any perception that councillors are using their role to obtain access to benefits that members of the public would otherwise be expected to pay for, and also to prevent them from being influenced (inadvertently or otherwise) into making decisions for reasons other than the public interest,” the Scottish Government consultation paper said.
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