My understanding is that for the Westminster and Scottish governments the Independent Advisors on matters relating to the Ministerial Code are appointments made by PM and FM respectively. Was there an implication in the media that the probity of the individuals and their reporting is somehow diminished by this fact? That would be a very serious charge and slur!
The Scottish Government on the matter of the Ministerial Code and how any potential breaches are investigated seems to follow broadly similar practices to HM Government in Westminster.
Each government has a document – the Ministerial Code – which are very similar in scope and content. New versions of are usually published at the start of each new administration, although in certain circumstances updating occurs more frequently. Each PM and each FM pens his/her own foreward to the document upon taking office.
The status and role of the Independent Advisor on Ministerial Interests (the Westminster terminology) with respect to the Ministerial Code for the Westminster Government is described in this briefing paper for those wishing more details:
Source: House of Commons Library (2018) The Ministerial Code and the Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests. BRIEFING PAPER Number 03750
Specifically the HoC Library paper explains:
‘3.1 Appointment of the Independent Adviser: The Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests is “entirely a personal appointment of the Prime Minister of the day”. The role does not have a statutory basis, and is not subject to open recruitment or a pre- appointment hearing.’
So such an Independent Advisor for HM Government would be strictly Boris Johnson’s, the PM’s, ‘Advisor’. And the same goes for the SG and FM.
More on the Westminster system: ‘Since 2006 there has been an Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests, to give confidential advice on request from Ministers and to conduct investigations at the request of the Prime Minister. There have been calls for this role to be reviewed, particularly with regard to the current absence of any power for the Adviser to initiate investigations unless so instructed by the Prime Minister. There has been some controversy over decisions of successive Prime Ministers not to refer individuals to the Adviser.’
This approach has been debated previously in Westminster as we learn in the same briefing: “The Government response to this report, ‘The Prime Minister’s Adviser on Ministers’ Interests: independent or not?’ … , was published in February 2013, and stated that the Government remained of the view that the role of the Independent Adviser should be a personal appointment made by the Prime Minister of the day.’
The June 2008 edition of the Scottish Ministerial Code introduced independent advisers on the application of the Code. The SG’s website states: “Where they deem it appropriate, the First Minister may refer matters to the independent advisers to provide advice on which to base their judgement about any action required in respect of ministerial conduct. The findings of the independent advisers are published.”
The Independent Advisors on the Ministerial Code in Scotland – broadly equivalent to the role in Westminster discussed above – have since 2008 been:
Rt Hon Sir George Reid and Rt Hon Lord Steel of Aikwood KT KBE: June 2008 to August 2011
Rt Hon Dame Elish Angiolini QC DBE August 2011 to date
Rt Hon Lord Fraser of Carmyllie QC: August 2011 to June 2013
Sir David Bell KCB: October 2012 to January 2013
James Hamilton: January 2013 to date