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Standards in Public Life - The Nolan Principles

The Nolan Principles - 25 years on...

In 1994, the UK government established a Committee on Standards in Public Life. The committee was chaired by Lord Nolan, and was tasked with making recommendations to improve standards of behaviour in public life. The first report of the committee established the seven principles of public life, also known as the “Nolan principles”. 20 years on from the development of the principles, have they made a difference, and are they still relevant?

Of the following, how many can claim that they have acted according to these 25 year-old principles?

  • John Swinney MSP

  • Officers of Perth & Kinross Council

  • The Board of Governors

  • Witherslack

  • The Care Inspectorate

  • Education Scotland

  • The Registrar of Independent School

So what are the Nolan principles of public life? The seven principles are outlined below:

  • Selflessness – Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other benefits for themselves, their family or their friends.

  • Integrity – Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.

  • Objectivity – In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.

  • Accountability – Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.

  • Openness – Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.

  • Honesty – Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.

  • Leadership – Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.

Bill Colley