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Scottish councillors will be required to comply with a national code of conduct, secretary of state Donald Dewar an...
Scottish councillors will be required to comply with a national code of conduct, secretary of state Donald Dewar announced last week. Standards will be overseen by a new Scottish standards commission.

Mr Dewar's proposals for a national code go further than plans for England, where a model code of conduct will simply form the basis of each council's local code.

Measures to improve the ethical framework for Scottish local government were the main focus of a speech by Mr Dewar last week which was billed as the Labour Party's fight-back against rising support for the Scottish National Party.

The new standards commission was described in briefings to Scottish newspapers as a 'sleaze-buster'.

'Discipline until now has been left too much in the hands of political parties or to internal self-regulation,' Mr Dewar said. He had earlier acknowledged that recent problems in Scottish local government 'reflect no credit on my own party'.

A government consultation paper on the ethical framework is expected to be published next week. It will flesh out proposals for the new standards commission and the role of standards committees set up by each council.

The paper is likely to give the ombudsman a role in investigating complaints against councillors and departures from the code, leaving the national standards commission to adjudicate.

The speech reinforced the idea that surcharge is to be abolished, strongly hinted at last week in the English green paper on ethics. Mr Dewar said: 'There should be an alternative to the archaic penalty of surcharge, which is cumbersome and unsatisfactory.'

Mr Dewar also announced in his speech that the independent commission on local government had been asked to extend its remit to look at the ethical framework set out by the Nolan committee and to consider whether any further measures were required.

He highlighted the new system for selecting Labour local government candidates which is being put in place this week.

Under this system, both new and existing candidates for next year's elections will have to go through a process of nomination - including self-nomination - formal application with assessment by a trained panel and interview.

Other areas of local government business which needed to be addressed included the committee system, the case for elected provosts, community consultation and measures to improve the quality of councillors, Mr Dewar said.

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