Code of Conduct for MSPs - Volume 2, Section 8: Engagement and Liaison with Constituents

8.1 Dealing with individual constituents’ cases

8.1.1 Every constituent is represented by one constituency MSP and seven regional MSPs. It is expected that each member will take on a case when approached although it is recognised that there may be legitimate reasons for a member to decline a constituent’s case in certain circumstances, for example, where a constituent requests an MSP to take inappropriate action, or if that case seeks action which would represent a conflict of interest with existing casework or is contrary to the member’s political beliefs. If so, the member would ordinarily be expected to inform the constituent that the member is not taking up the case.

8.1.2 A constituent can approach any of the MSPs (whether a constituency MSP or one of the seven regional MSPs as the case may be) elected to represent them as all MSPs have equal formal and legal status.

8.1.3 In the event that a member is made aware that a constituent’s case is already being pursued by a constituency MSP or regional MSP, it is recommended that the member notifies that MSP. Whilst this is not a requirement of the Code of Conduct, adopting such an approach should avoid any duplication of case work or MSPs working at cross purposes thereby damaging a constituent’s case. Notification between members should only take place with the explicit consent of the constituent.

8.1.4 An MSP must not deal with a matter relating to a constituency case or constituency issue outwith the member’s constituency or region (as the case may be) unless by prior agreement.

8.1.5 Regional MSPs have a responsibility to all those in the region for which they were elected. It is important therefore that they recognise this in the way in which they operate within the region and they must therefore work in more than two constituencies within their region. Regional MSPs would be expected to deal (as appropriate, having regard to paragraph 8.1.1) with any matter raised by any constituent within their region.

8.1.6 In representing constituents’ interests, members have a duty to respect individual privacy, unless there are overwhelming and lawful reasons in the wider public interest for disclosure to be made to a relevant authority, for example, where a member is made aware of criminal activity.

8.2 Describing members

8.2.1 MSPs should not misrepresent the basis on which they were elected or the area they serve. Regional members and constituency members must describe themselves accurately so as not to confuse those with whom they deal.

Constituency members should always describe themselves as:

“[Name], Member of the Scottish Parliament for [x] constituency.”

Regional members should always describe themselves as:

“[Name], Member of the Scottish Parliament for [y] region.”

8.2.2 Regional members must not describe themselves as a “local” member for (or having a particular interest in) only part of the region for which they were elected. Constituency members should not describe themselves as the sole MSP for a particular area or constituency.

8.2.3 Further guidance may be issued by the Presiding Officer as appropriate in the context of a period prior to an election.

8.3 MSPs’ staff

8.3.1 Members must ensure that their staff in the Parliament and locally, and others working on their behalf with constituents and agencies, are aware of, and conform to, these rules.

8.4 Making a complaint

8.4.1 Any complaint against a member (including one about their staff or others working for them) in respect of this section should in the first instance be made to the Presiding Officer. Any complaint made under Section 8 of the Code of Conduct should meet the requirements set out in paragraph 9.1 of Volume 3 of the Code of Conduct for Members of the Scottish Parliament. A complaint which does not meet the requirements set out in paragraph 9.1 may be dismissed by the Presiding Officer as a ‘Procedurally Defective Complaint’.

8.4.2 In considering a complaint the Presiding Officer may contact the member(s) concerned to seek a response to the conduct complained about.

8.4.3 The Presiding Officer will, if necessary, contact the respective Party Business Manager in relation to a complaint.

8.4.4 Where the complaint cannot be resolved in this way, where the matter is of sufficient seriousness to warrant a more formal investigation, or where any MSP directly involved remains dissatisfied, the Presiding Officer will raise the matter with the Convener of the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee.

8.4.5 The Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee would then consider the matter as it judges appropriate, in accordance with its procedures and its remit to consider and report on the conduct of members in carrying out their Parliamentary duties.

8.4.6 It is fundamental to the success of this section that the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee will, as a matter of course, treat all breaches of these rules with the utmost seriousness. Members should not raise complaints under Section 8 of the Code of Conduct in any way other than that described above (in particular via the media) to avoid any suggestion of prejudging the issue.