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Local Government

6th Report 2000

Stage 1 Report on the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill

  
    
SP Paper 89

Session 1 (2000)


Remit and membership
The remit of the Local Government Committee is to consider and report on matters relating to local government in Scotland.


Membership:
Colin Campbell
Kenneth Gibson
Trish Godman (Convener)
Donald Gorrie
Keith Harding
Sylvia Jackson
Johann Lamont (Deputy Convener)
Michael McMahon
Bristow Muldoon
Gil Paterson
Jamie Stone

Committee Clerk
Eugene Windsor

Assistant Clerk
Craig Harper



The Committee reports to the Parliament as follows—

INTRODUCTION

  1. The Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill was introduced in the Parliament on 1 March 2000 by The Minister for Communities, Ms Wendy Alexander. The Parliamentary Bureau agreed that the Local Government Committee would be the lead committee on the Bill.

  2. Under Rule 9.6 of the Parliament’s Standing Orders, it is for the lead committee to report to the Parliament on the general principles of the Bill. Other committees within whose remit the Bill falls report to the lead committee. The reports of the Equal Opportunities Committee and the Education, Culture and Sport Committee are attached at Annexe A.

  3. The provisions of the Bill conferring power to make subordinate legislation were referred to the Subordinate Legislation Committee under rule 9.6.2. The Committee’s report is also attached at Annexe A.

  4. The Local Government Committee carried out extensive pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Bill, taking evidence from a range of organisations. The Committee reported its findings on the draft Bill in its second report 2000. (1) Given that the pre-legislative scrutiny was extensive and the timescale agreed by the Parliamentary Bureau for Stage 1 was relatively short, the Committee decided to concentrate its Stage 1 scrutiny on areas identified in its pre-legislative scrutiny report which were not specifically addressed by the Executive, and on Part 4 of the Bill, which deals with the Repeal of Section 2A of the Local Government Act 1986. The Equal Opportunities Committee and the Education, Culture and Sport Committee also took Stage 1 evidence on the latter aspect of the Bill.

    (1) SP Paper 58 Local Government Committee, Pre-legislative scrutiny of Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill

  5. The Local Government Committee took oral evidence at Stage 1 from Mike Bennett, (Policy Officer for Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (SOLACE)), Douglas Sinclair, (Member of the Executive of SOLACE), Ian Drummond, (Chief Legal Adviser, Glasgow City Council), Bailie Christopher Mason, (Glasgow City Council) Robert Aldridge, (Director of Scottish Council for Single Homeless), John Dickie, (Head of Youth Housing Unit, Scottish Council for Single Homeless), Jamie Rennie, (Project Co-ordinator, Stonewall Youth Project), Ann Patrizio, (Organiser, Parents Enquiry Scotland), Gordon Jeyes, (General Secretary of Association of Directors of Education in Scotland), Bob McKay, (Member of Association of Directors of Education in Scotland Executive), Mr Frank McAveety, (Deputy Minister for Local Government).

  6. In addition to the oral and written evidence received at the draft stage of the Bill, the Committee received further written evidence to inform its scrutiny at Stage 1. Full details of the written evidence collected by all three committees are included at Annexe C and D.


  7. Background

  8. In June 1999 the First Minister, Donald Dewar, announced the inclusion of a Local Government Ethical Standards Bill in the first tranche of the Executive’s legislative programme. The intention to widen the applicability of the Bill to include board members of devolved Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) as well as local government councillors was announced by Ms Wendy Alexander, Minister for Communities on 2 July 1999. (2) On 29 October 1999 the Minister for Communities announced that the Scottish Cabinet had decided that Section 2A of the Local Government Act 1986 should be repealed, and that an appropriate provision would be made within the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill. A consultation paper (3) was published at the end of November 1999 and included the full text of the draft Bill.

    (2) SPOR vol 1 col 879, 2.7.99
    (3) Standards in Public Life Consultation on the draft Ethical Standards Bill , The Scottish Executive, November 1999

  9. The Executive announced a consultation process which closed on 14 January 2000. Copies of the responses received by the Executive, other than those made confidentially, are held by the Parliament’s Information Centre.


  10. Adequacy of consultation

  11. Part of the Committee’s role at this stage is to consider whether the Executive has consulted appropriately at the pre-legislative stage.

  12. The Committee considers that—subject to the comments made in the following paragraph—the consultation carried out by the Executive on the Bill was extensive. Over 6,500 copies of the consultation paper were issued, and over 2,300 responses were received. However, the Committee notes that the consultation period was fairly short, and included the Christmas and New Year holiday period, which effectively reduced the time available for consultation.

  13. The emergence of media publicity surrounding the ‘Keep the Clause’ campaign against the proposed repeal of section 2A of the Local Government Act 1986, coincided with the close of the Executive’s consultation period. The Scottish School Boards Association, in evidence to the Education, Culture and Sport Committee, considered that the Executive had not adequately consulted parents (ECS, col 715) on this issue, while Ann Allen of the Church of Scotland, in evidence to the Equal Opportunities Committee, considered that the Executive had not done enough research to back up the arguments for repealing the clause. (EO, col 419) Patrick Rolink of ‘Keep the Clause,’ in evidence to the same committee, said that he had ‘yet to meet a parent who was consulted in any way.’ (LG, col 522) Stonewall Youth Project, in written evidence to the Committee, highlighted the ‘lack of direct consultation with young people on this issue.’(4)

    (4) Stonewall Youth Project, written submission to Local Government Committee, reproduced in Annexe C of this report.

  14. Overall, the Committee notes that some significant changes were made to the Bill as a result of consultation although there were a greater number of proposed changes which the Executive decided not to consider. It is recognised that after consultation there will inevitably be some points of view which are not taken on board. Where the Committee feels that the Executive has not taken sufficient account of the views expressed in consultation, this is mentioned in relation to the specific area of the Bill.


  15. OVERALL VIEWS ON THE BILL

  16. The majority of the witnesses who gave evidence broadly welcomed the intentions of the Bill, though some organisations expressed reservations about the Bill. COSLA, in its written evidence (5) to the Committee, indicated that local government had—

‘long been committed to ensuring and maintaining the highest standards of probity in the conduct of local government, in particular, and in public life in general…and supports the desire to establish a clear framework and mechanism for dealing with such matters.’

(5) COSLA written evidence, Annexe D of this report

  1. COSLA also welcomed—

    ‘the opportunity to play an active part in helping shape a modern ethical framework for those in Scottish public life.’

  2. While COSLA expressed the view that the proposals in the Bill were an improvement on the current situation, it also indicated (6) that the majority of its members would prefer to have self-regulation through local standards committees, rather than the national Standards Commission—

    ‘It is recognised that individually a number of councils have accepted the concept of only having a single Standards Commission for Scotland. The majority view of local government however is that councils should be empowered, within a regulated, accountable and transparent framework, to self regulate themselves with regard to standards, a power available to other elected representatives such as MSPs, MPs and MEPs.’

    (6) COSLA written evidence, Annexe D of this report

  3. COSLA however adds that—
  4. ‘If individual Council Standards Committees were not required under the Bill, then COSLA and local government would seek to ensure that local government ownership of the process could be expressed in the make up and running of the Standards Commission.‘

  5. Some organisations expressed deeper reservations about the Bill. The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (SOLACE) in oral evidence to the Committee, (LG, col 630) argued that one ethical framework should apply across all public bodies which spend public money, including the Parliament—
  6. ‘there is a code of conduct—a code of basic standards—which the public rightfully expect all public bodies and those who serve on them to follow. Two conclusions follow those two characteristics. First, SOLACE believes that there should be a single, overriding Scottish public service code of conduct, reflecting the core standards of conduct, albeit with supplementary provisions to reflect differences between organisations. Secondly, if there is to be a single code, it follows that there should be one standards commission, dealing with all aspects of conduct, and carrying out both investigation and adjudication across the whole public sector, including local government, appointed public bodies and the Parliament itself.’

  7. This is an issue to which the Committee gave lengthy consideration, and it is considered in more detail later in the report.

  8. Glasgow City Council, in oral evidence (LG, col 643) to the Committee, questioned the need for a national Standards Commission which would—
  9. ‘be restricted to non-criminal—and therefore less serious—breaches of the code. Its task would be to crack small nuts; how big a hammer is required for that job?’

  10. Instead Bailie Christopher Mason argued for a new offence of ‘abuse of public office’ combined with self regulation by council standards committees on the model established by Glasgow City Council. This would leave a reduced role for the national Standards Commission as—
  11. ‘an appeals body for local committees; as a body monitoring the activities of local committees; as a committee of first instance for the investigation of complaints in those councils or other public bodies that, for various reasons, are unable to establish a local standards committee; as a committee of first instance for complaints that may be passed on to it by local committees because of the seniority of the subject of the complaint, for example; as the main provider of training and guidance on the national code; and as an adviser to Parliament on law reform in this area.’

  12. The Committee welcomes the evidence of Glasgow City Council, and will consider some of the points raised in the main body of the report.

  13. SPECIFIC ISSUES

    Bodies included in the legislation

    Other public bodies

  14. The Committee notes that a number of bodies which were included in the draft Bill do not appear in Schedule 3 of the Bill as introduced. The Committee accepts the points made by the Deputy Minister in relation to Crown appointments, and notes that the Executive intends to bring forward amendments to the Bill to make appropriate arrangements for such appointments.
  1. The Committee also notes the Deputy Minister’s explanation that advisory bodies do not have their own staff and make relatively minimal use of public funds, that Local Enterprise Companies are governed by company law, and that other bodies such as area tourist boards and housing associations are autonomous. It also notes the Deputy Minister’s view that the establishment of the Standards Commission will ‘allow those bodies to reflect on their existing guidelines and consider whether to bring them more into line with those of the Standards Commission.’ (LG, col 748)

  2. However, the Committee remains unconvinced that the argument against including the maximum possible number of public bodies in the legislation stands up to scrutiny. The Committee believes that all devolved public bodies, including Local Enterprise Companies, operating in Scotland and spending public money, should be included within the provisions of the legislation.

  3. The Deputy Minister indicated in oral evidence to the Committee (LG, col 750) that where councillors act as directors of public bodies, because of their position as councillors, they would be governed by the legislation. The Committee considers that this position where, for example in the case of area tourist boards, some members of the board are answerable under the legislation and other members are not, is untenable.

  4. 'Arm’s length’ companies

  5. The Committee believes that ‘arm’s length’ companies set up by councils, for example recreational trusts and industrial and provident societies, should be included within the legislation.

  6. Executive and non executive directors of public bodies

  7. The Committee recognises that the Bill does not impede any body which wishes its employee members to be covered by the code of conduct. However the Committee would prefer a mandatory requirement on new appointments to Executive Director posts in relevant bodies to be subject to the code.

  8. Inclusion of MSPs

  9. In its pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Bill, the Committee considered (7) that the question of the possible inclusion of MSPs should be explored further. The Committee appointed a reporter, Dr Sylvia Jackson, to attend the meeting of the Parliament’s Standards Committee on 22 March 2000, at which evidence was taken from the Deputy Minister for Local Government and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Elizabeth Filkin. (ST, col 429-452 and 462-474)
    Following the report from Dr Jackson, the Committee questioned the Deputy Minister at length on this issue.

    (7) SP Paper 58, Local Government Committee, Pre-legislative Scrutiny of Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill, para 18

  10. Although the Committee considers that, in principle, the Parliament should operate within the same ethical framework as other public bodies in Scotland, it recognises that there are practical difficulties in including MSPs within this legislation.

  11. Notwithstanding the question of whether members of the Parliament should be subject to investigation by a Chief Investigating Officer, and sanction by a body, both appointed by Executive Ministers, there is also a question of where responsibility for ethical conduct of MSPs should lie. Section 39 of the Scotland Act includes reference to provision for ‘preventing or restricting the participation in proceedings of the Parliament of a member with an interest…’ and also provides for the prohibition of members from advocating…in consideration of any payment or benefit in kind. (8) Under the terms of the Parliament’s Standing Orders, (9) the question of standards of behaviour for members is clearly a matter for the Parliament’s Standards Committee. Rule 1.6 provides that ‘The Parliament may, on a motion from the Standards Committee, lay down a code of conduct for members.’ Rule 6.5 sets out the Standards Committee’s role in considering and reporting on ‘the adoption, amendment and application of any code of conduct for members’ and on ‘whether a member’s conduct is in accordance with these Rules and any code of conduct for members, matters relating to members’ interests, and any other matters relating to the conduct of members carrying out their Parliamentary Duties.’ This matter then, appears to fall clearly within the remit of the Standards Committee, and it would therefore not be appropriate for the Local Government Committee to recommend formally in its report that this legislation be extended to include MSPs.

    (8) The Scotland Act 1998, Chapter 46, Section 39
    (9) Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, 1999

  12. The Committee also acknowledges the practical difficulties and possible delay in the passage of this Bill which could result if the Parliament were to seek to include its own members in a Bill which has not been drafted with this intention in mind.

  13. For these reasons, the Committee has decided not to pursue this question further at this time. Nevertheless the Committee welcomes the Deputy Minister’s statement—
  14. ‘We believe that the Bill, if it goes through, should be used as a template and an exemplar of expected good conduct in public service. However, the structure of the Parliament means that the Standards Committee is addressing the code of conduct for members of Parliament.

    Discussions about the draft bill are taking place across the Executive, the Local Government Committee and the Standards Committee. The purpose of the bill is not to select a particular level of public service, but to serve as an exemplar for everyone in public service. I have made it clear to councillors in my constituency that I have the same expectations of the conduct of MSPs as I have of that of councillors. I hope that people understand that message. Some folk have tried to claim that a code of conduct that applies only to MSPs will differ markedly from a code that will apply to councillors. That is clearly not the case.’

  15. The Local Government Committee endorses the Deputy Minister’s comments. Although the Committee acknowledges that it is not within its remit to recommend that this legislation should include MSPs, it nevertheless feels that the Parliament must consider further the question of how the behaviour of its members is monitored. It therefore urges the Parliament’s Standards Committee, in the light of this legislation, to re-examine this issue, and to consider whether legislation or other arrangements are required.


  16. Operation of the Standards Commission

    Consistency of treatment of councillors and members of public bodies

  17. In its pre-legislative scrutiny, the Committee argued that ‘greater consistency is required in the treatment of councillors and members of public bodies.’ (10) The Committee welcomes the extension of the proposed powers of sanction of the Standards Commission to include members of devolved public bodies as well as councillors.


  18. (10) SP Paper 58 Local Government Committee, Pre-legislative scrutiny of Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill, para 5


    Rules of Procedure

  19. The Committee is concerned that the Bill as introduced contains no rules of procedure under which the Standards Commission will operate. It is recognised by the Committee that there needs to be an opportunity to develop best practice, but nevertheless it considers that a more detailed framework of operation is required. The Committee also notes the concerns of the Parliament’s Subordinate Legislation Committee on this matter. (SL, cols 144-146) The Committee calls on the Executive either to bring forward amendments to incorporate such a framework, or to instigate subordinate legislation for this purpose.

  20. Appeals procedure

  21. The Committee, in its pre-legislative scrutiny report, argued for the introduction of a right of appeal. It notes that the Bill as introduced does not provide for any form of appeals procedure. It also notes the statement in the Policy Memorandum that a significant number of consultation respondents expressed concern at the lack of such a procedure, and welcomes the Executive’s intention to bring forward appropriate amendments to introduce a right of appeal.

  22. Power of interim suspension

  23. The Committee expressed some reservations in its pre-legislative scrutiny report over the use of the power of interim suspension. (11) It notes the clarification that interim action would only be necessary in circumstances where an urgent response to an allegation was of utmost importance, for example if the allegation was so serious that public confidence in the body was in risk of being seriously jeopardised. (12) Nevertheless, the Committee remains concerned that the circumstances in which the power might be used are vague, and calls on the Executive to provide clearer examples of cases where it might be appropriate. The Committee considers that it may be possible to develop a framework which parallels employment practice, where there may be a greater degree of clarity about, for example, the circumstances under which an employee might be suspended.

    (11) SP Paper 58 Local Government Committee, Pre-legislative scrutiny of Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill, para 7
    (12) SP Bill 9-PM Policy Memorandum, para 39

  24. The Committee questioned the Deputy Minister on the question of possible loss of Special Responsibility Allowance, (SRA) in the event that a councillor in receipt of such allowance were to be suspended. The Committee recognises that SRA is different from a salary, but acknowledges that for many senior councillors and council committee conveners SRA represents their main income, and its loss could have a significant impact on their financial position. At present there is no provision within the Bill for the loss of SRA to be reimbursed should a suspended councillor be shown not to have breached the code of conduct. The Committee welcomes the Deputy Minister’s pledge to reconsider this question and bring forward a workable scheme of arrangement to deal with such an eventuality. (LG, col 752) The Committee also notes that some issues relating to allowances and remuneration of councillors may be addressed in the forthcoming report of the Renewing Democracy (Kerley) working group. (13)
  25. (13) Renewing Local Democracy working party, under the Chairmanship of Richard Kerley, with a remit to consider voting systems for local government, numbers of councillors, remuneration and other issues, and due to report to the Executive by the end of April 2000.

    Range of sanctions

  26. The Committee suggested in its pre-legislative scrutiny report that a wider range of sanctions—for example removal from convenership or representational office—should be available. The Committee notes that no additions to the range of sanctions available to the Standards Commission have been included in the Bill as introduced. However, the Committee is still of the view that a wider range of sanctions may be required and calls on the Executive to consider whether appropriate amendments can be brought forward during the Bill’s progress.

  27. Length of time for investigations

  28. The Committee accepts that the Chief Investigating Officer will require adequate time to carry out investigations, and it would not wish to see investigations falling as a result of being ‘timed out.’ However, it does believe that there should be a time limit on investigations. The Committee considers that—
    1. there should normally be a limit of 90 days on investigations;

    2. where more time is required for an investigation, the approval of the Standards Commission should be required.

Malevolent claims

  1. The Committee notes that no specific changes have been made in response to earlier concerns over the possibility of malevolent and unsubstantiable claims of impropriety against councillors and members of public bodies. The Committee also notes the Deputy Minister’s observations on the robust process of filtering allegations that will need to be put in place once the Chief Investigating Officer has been appointed. (14) The Committee further notes the discretion which the Chief Investigating Officer will have to decide whether or not to investigate allegations.


  2. (14) Local Government Committee Official Report, col 754, 28 February 2000


    Appropriate form of complaints

  3. The Committee notes the Executive’s position that the Chief Investigating Officer will have the discretion to decide whether or not to pursue complaints which are not made in writing. However, the Committee considers that, where possible, complaints should be made in writing, and that measures should be built into the Chief Investigating Officer’s operation to ensure strict confidentiality during an investigation. Although the Committee accepts an element of discretion on the part of the Chief Investigating Officer, it is not convinced that anonymous complaints should be investigated.

  4. Administration arrangements for the Chief Investigating Officer and the Standards Commission

    Appointment of Chief Investigating Officer

  5. The Committee notes that the Bill has been amended to allow for the appointment of the Chief Investigating Officer by Scottish Ministers, and welcomes the addition of Schedule 2, which clarifies the powers of the Chief Investigating Officer to appoint staff.


  6. Other issues

    Overlap in remits of bodies

  7. In its Pre-legislative scrutiny report, the Committee expressed concern over the potential for overlap in the roles of the Standards Commission, the Accounts Commission and the Commissioner for Local Administration in Scotland (Local Government Ombudsman), and noted that the Deputy Minister had recognised that this was an area which needed to be ‘tightened up.’ (15) The Committee notes that this question has not been addressed in the Bill as introduced. However, while the Committee welcomes the Deputy Minister’s ‘commitment to examine the question of overlap.’ (LG, col 759) it considers that a clear and workable definition of the boundaries of each body’s remit and sphere of operation in relation to the provisions of the Bill is required.


  8. (15) SP Paper 58 Local Government Committee, Pre-legislative scrutiny of Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill, para 16


    Surcharge

  9. The Committee notes that no specific changes have been made to the Bill in response to its previous suggestion that consideration should be given to removing the power of surcharge. However, the Committee welcomes the Deputy Minister’s statement that he ‘broadly shares that view’ (LG, col 755) and is in discussion with the Accounts Commission and other bodies to determine what would be as effective if surcharging were abolished. Many of the witnesses who gave evidence to the Committee considered that the power of surcharge should be removed. The Committee also notes that the Local Government Bill (16) currently being progressed through the UK Parliament includes provision for the removal of the surcharge power in England and Wales.


  10. (16) Local Government (Organisations and Standards) Bill


    Local standards committees

  11. The Committee notes that the Local Government Bill (17) for England and Wales provides for mandatory local standards committees. The Committee does not believe that local standards committees in councils should be mandatory in Scotland, but does believe that local authorities should be strongly encouraged to set up such committees. Consequently the Committee welcomes the Deputy Minister’s statement that ‘it would be helpful’ (LG, col 759) if councils were to set up standards committees, and calls on the Deputy Minister to consider whether any other encouragement to councils is required.

  12. (17) Local Government (Organisations and Standards) Bill

    European Convention on Human Rights

  13. The Committee also notes the Executive’s position that the only issue which arises from Parts 1 – 3 of the Bill in relation to the European Convention on Human Rights is whether, in imposing sanctions on a councillor or member of a devolved body, the Commission is determining the civil rights and obligations of that person.

  14. The Committee further notes that the Executive considers that the arrangements as set down in the Bill guarantee that the Commission’s activities will not involve the determination of civil rights and obligations.
  15. (18)

    (18)
    SP Bill 9-PM Policy Memorandum, para 51


    Repeal of Section 2A of the Local Government Act 1986

  16. Since the publication of the Committee’s pre-legislative scrutiny report, considerable public and media debate and discussion on this issue has been generated. During Stage 1 consideration of the Bill, evidence from many organisations, both in favour of and opposed to repeal, has been heard by the Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee and its Education, Culture and Sport Committee, as well as by the Local Government Committee. Written evidence was also submitted by a wide range of religious organisations, teachers organisations, trades unions and organisations representing young people.

  17. The Committee considers that the evidence which focused on the experiences of young people was particularly compelling. Jamie Rennie of Stonewall Youth Project, in oral evidence (LG, col 687) to the Committee, said—
  18. ‘Recently, three independent academic surveys took place in Edinburgh. They showed that 60 per cent of gay people say that they were bullied at school as a result of their sexuality—an alarming figure, I hope you will agree. Only 6 per cent of schools have an anti-bullying policy that is either gay-sympathetic or gay-specific. Of the young people surveyed, 20 per cent confessed to inflicting serious self-harm or to attempting suicide as a result of bullying. In a recent survey of 200 young people by our project, 20 per cent had been homeless at some time as a result of homophobia.

    Although section 28 has been viewed by many parents and others as a safeguard, in our opinion it has assisted in the destruction of many young gay people's lives. We should be honest with ourselves when we talk about the Keep the Clause campaign—when many parents say, "Keep the clause," they are really saying, "I would like my child to grow up to be heterosexual."

    We believe that choice has little to do with sexuality. The opinion of the British Medical Association is that sexual orientation is set before puberty. That brings into question the concept of promoting homosexuality. It has been said that we may as well try to promote left-handedness among young people as to promote homosexuality.

    Section 28 presents our youth with the message that young LGBT people are second-class citizens in the eyes of the law, and—if they are gay themselves—that they are inferior to their classmates and therefore less deserving of the Scottish education of which we are all so proud. We feel that the section has cut two ways into the fabric of our society, alienating some and prejudicing others.

    We hope that the Executive's new wording will remove the venom from the wound that the section has created. Leaders will have to make a genuine effort to ensure that the new wording, along with any guidelines that might be put in place, are not interpreted as an old section 28 with a new name.’

  19. The Committee also welcomes the evidence (LG, col 708) offered in respect of young people in schools, by the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland—
  20. Any approach to sex education in schools should be child centred and age and stage appropriate…We need to bear in mind children's needs and to listen to their voices. If discrimination and fear are allowed to predominate, ignorance will be the victor, which surely is not acceptable…

    …My second difficulty with those who oppose repeal is their descriptions of public opinion. Of course, any test of public opinion depends on the question asked. Promotion of sexuality of any nature in school is not appropriate. All relationships depend on equality, justice and respect, and Scottish teachers set sexuality in its appropriate context. Any discussion of lifestyle should be based on decision making and building the capacity of young people to make decisions…Moreover, it seems to us that repeal is no longer the sole issue. It is a signal that we make to civil Scotland and, more important, to tomorrow's citizens. The future is not what older people think, but what younger people do. Therefore, the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland wishes to make a commitment to resisting prejudice and ignorance. Within that, the proposed section 26 of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. Bill, is helpful and sensible, but we would argue that further detail would not be appropriate.

  21. The Committee welcomes the decision by the Executive to set up a working group to review the range of material dealing with sex education in Scottish schools. It also welcomes the consultation process following the publication of draft guidelines and the establishment of the Working Group (19) to review curriculum advice and materials used in teaching of sex education in schools in the light of the proposed repeal of Section 2A.

    (19) Working Group established by the Executive to review curriculum advice and materials used in the teaching of sex education in Scottish Schools, under the Chairmanship of Mike McCabe, Director of Education, South Ayrshire Council.

  22. The Committee also notes the inclusion of Section 26 of the Bill as introduced, which requires councils to have regard to the value of stable family life in a child’s development, and to the need to ensure that the content of instruction provided in the performance of its functions relating to children is appropriate, having regard to each child’s age, understanding and stage of development. The Committee welcomes the addition of this Section.

  23. The Committee notes the findings of the Education, Culture and Sport Committee and the Equal Opportunities Committee, and notes that both Committees support repeal.

  24. After consideration of the evidence heard, and of the reports of the Equal Opportunities Committee and the Education, Culture and Sport Committee (appended in Annexe A) the Local Government Committee is convinced of the case that Section 2A of the Local Government Act is discriminatory and should be repealed. (20) The Committee also calls on the Executive to adopt a pro-active approach to promoting the case for repeal.

    (20) Keith Harding dissented

  25. POLICY MEMORANDUM

  26. Rule 9.6.3 requires the Committee to report on the Executive’s Policy Memorandum. A number of references to the content of the Policy Memorandum have been made within this report. However, the Committee is generally content with the explanation of policy within the document.


  27. RECOMMENDATION

  28. The Committee has identified a number of concerns, many of which it expects to see addressed as the Bill progresses. Overall, (and subject to the specific dissents recorded within the report), the Committee agrees to recommend that the Parliament approves the general principles of the Bill.
     
 
 
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