It sets out plans to improve openness through increased accessibility and new appointments procedures, and it identifies steps already taken by the Scottish Office and public bodies themselves to improve their management and supervision.
Mr Forsyth said: 'I have decided to publish this document because of the increasing awareness and lively public debate over the accountability and accessibility of public bodies. I wish to dispel the misconceptions which surround these bodies, to show my commitment to the continuing pursuit of the highest standards and best practices in their management and supervision, and to give the opportunity for the widest possible expression of view on these issues. I want to ensure that non-departmental public bodies continue to be fully accountable to those they serve, and are seen to be so.
'The Scottish Office is responsible for more executive non- departmental public bodies than any other government department, reflecting my responsibilities as the secretary of state. They perform a vital role in securing the provision of a wide variety of services. They are held strictly to account for what they spend and their members are expected to conform to the highest traditions of public service, and give substantially of their time, often for little or nothing in the way of remuneration.
Proposed changes in the paper are:
-- All non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) to have a code of practice on openness and accessibility, based on guidance prepared by The Scottish Office, making information available about their activities and decisions
-- all NDPBs to have a code of best practice for board members
-- an advisory panel, containing independent members to advise on board member appointments to NDPBs, to be set up by each Scottish office department
-- advertising to be used to identify candidates for future appointment to NPDBs
-- a separate advisory panel to be set up to advise the secretary of state on the appointment of chairmen on health bodies
-- five-yearly reviews of NDPBs by Scottish Office to be given greater publicity and have more external participation
-- NHS Trusts which do not already do so to be encouraged to hold their formal meetings open to the public
The new procedures for appointments, including the introduction of independent advisers to scrutinise candidates, implement for the Scottish Office the government's acceptance of the recommendations of the first report of the Nolan Committee.