The key proposal is for a one-stop shop, combining the offices of all the Scottish public sector ombudsmen. Other proposed changes include removing the need for complaints to go through MSPs, the publication of all investigative reports and empowering the ombudsman to publicise cases where an injustice has not been remedied.
These proposals are based on the responses to Modernising the Complaints System, a consultation paper published in October 2000 which invited views on a wide range of issues relating to the work of public sector ombudsmen in Scotland.
Announcing this latest consultation paper, 'A Modern Complaints System', Mr MacKay said:
'The executive is committed to setting up a modern complaints system for the Scottish public sector which is open, accountable, easily accessible to everyone and has the trust of the Scottish public.
'To ensure that we achieve this aim, we have listened to the views of a broad range of people and organisations, including those who have actually used the present system. To continue this process, I am arranging for this paper to go to the same 800 plus organisations and individuals who were sent the first consultation.
'The responses to this latest consultation will help to shape a Bill which I intend to introduce in the parliament as soon as possible.
'The concept of a 'one-stop shop' is perhaps the most important of many innovative proposals and should raise the profile of the ombudsman, making it easier for people to make a complaint.
'By continuing the full and thorough debate begun last year, I am confident that we can create a modern complaints system which will ensure that Scottish public services are properly held to account.'
The consultation paper invites comments on the detailed proposals for a new Scottish public sector ombudsman by October 8th.
1. A Modern Complaints System proposes a one-stop shop combining the offices of the Scottish Parliamentary Ombudsman, the Health Service Ombudsman for Scotland, the Local Government Ombudsman and the Housing Association Ombudsman for Scotland. The one-stop shop would comprise one Scottish Public Sector Ombudsman, supported by up to three deputy Ombudsmen.
2. Other proposals include:
The one-stop shop should take over the Mental Welfare Commission's function of investigating the handling of complaints relating to mental health, (as recommended by the Millan Committee) and complaints against Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise.
a variety of measures to improve the accessibility of the Ombudsman including: removal of the need to submit complaints through an MSP; provision for a person to authorise a representative to complain on their behalf; allowing oral complaints to be accepted in special circumstances
reporting arrangements to be broadly the same as now, except that:
* all investigation reports will be published
* the ombudsman will have greater powers to publicise cases where an injustice has not been remedied
* the minimum content of annual reports should be specified in legislation
* enforcement of the ombudsman's recommendations should remain a matter for the Scottish parliament or Scottish ministers
* the ombudsman and deputies will be appointed by her majesty on the nomination of the parliament, for a term of up to five years. They may be reappointed for a second term but a third term will be allowed only in special circumstances.
3. The consultation document is being circulated to more than 800 organisations and individuals, including special interest and community groups, public bodies and professional and trade organisations. Copies can be obtained from the address below and it will also be available on the Scottish executive's websiteunder 'publications'.
* Responses are requested by 8 October 2001 and should be sent to:
Constitutional Policy Unit
St Andrew's House
Telephone: 0131 244 5537 or 0131 244 5560
Fax: 0131 244 0370