Rules submitted to ban bullying by Scottish councillors

The amended code has been submitted to Scottish Parliament for approval. Picture: Andrew Milligan
The amended code has been submitted to Scottish Parliament for approval. Picture: Andrew Milligan
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Ministers plan to toughen up rules governing Scottish councillors’ behaviour to ban harassment and bullying.

They want to update the Councillors’ Code of Conduct to add that “bullying or harassment is completely unacceptable” and a breach of the code.

The existing code states councillors must “respect” all other councillors and council employees and treat them “with courtesy at all times”.

It also requires councillors to respect members of the public when carrying out their job, but does not explicitly prohibit bullying or harassment.

The amended code has been submitted to the Scottish Parliament for approval following its endorsement by local government umbrella organisation Cosla.

The update comes following outrage over former minister Mark McDonald, who has stressed he could morally justify remaining at Holyrood despite admitting inappropriate behaviour towards women.

Mr McDonald resigned from the SNP party late last year in light of an internal inquiry into his behaviour.

Endorsements have also been given by the independent bodies responsible for enforcing the the code, the Standards Commission and the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life.

The proposed update brings the code in line with recent changes to the rules governing the behaviour of Scottish ministers.

Local Government Minister Kevin Stewart said: “Despite the great progress that has been made in promoting and achieving equality, it is clear that harassment and bullying are still issues that need tackled and this is unacceptable.

“Government works for the people and we need to be unequivocal that prejudice of any kind will not be tolerated.

“The proposed changes to the councillors’ code mean that it will specifically condemn harassment and bullying and make clear that where behaviour falls short people can expect to be held to account.”

Cosla president, councillor Alison Evison, added: “This change sends a strong message that all forms of bullying and harassment are not only completely unacceptable but are considered a breach of the code of conduct.”

If passed by parliament, the changes are expected to come into force in summer.

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