Blog: The Scottish Governance Code for the Third Sector 

At the end of last year, THRE team members Alice Tucker and Aer Nicholson Clasby, took part in the review of The Scottish Governance Code, leading the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Stakeholder Group. Alice writes about this process and the refreshed Code below: 

What was the review? 

The Scottish Governance Code for the Third Sector was first launched in 2018 and established the core principles of good governance for Third Sector trustee boards.  Earlier this year, I had the privilege of co-leading the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) stakeholder group with THRE Project Manager, Aer Nicholson Clasby as part of a wider review of the Code.  

The process of reviewing the Code was initiated in 2022 in recognition of the many changes that had occurred within the sector since 2018. There was a need for an updated code to reflect the changing circumstances of the Third Sector, this was especially true when considering how equality, diversity and inclusion had been incorporated into the original Code.  

Previously, the Code mentioned equality, diversity and inclusion within an introductory statement. This statement said that equality, diversity and inclusion underpinned each of the 5 core principles contained within the Code. However, there was little practical explanation of exactly how these values underpinned each principle. This gave readers little meaningful direction in how to practically take forward equality, diversity and inclusion values and to embed them in action, policy and processes. Based on both consultation feedback on the Code and attitudinal shifts across the sector since 2018, it was clear that this could be strengthened. 

How did we do it? 

THRE were invited by SCVO to lead a stakeholder group on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion as part of the review process. This stakeholder group consisted of third sector members, charity law experts and representatives from regulatory bodies. The process involved reviewing all of the previously gathered consultation responses and drafting recommendations for the stakeholder group. Our priority was ensuring that equality, diversity and inclusion was weaved throughout the entirety of the code using strong actionable language and statements of practical application.  

Myself and Aer then led a session with the stakeholder group, where we worked through the recommendations and shaped them based on the group’s varied expertise and insights.  

What changed? 

This work resulted in a revised code which clearly emphasises that equality, diversity and inclusion should be an active consideration in every aspect of third sector governance. Trustee boards, as strategic decision-makers, are uniquely positioned to establish the values and ethos of the organisation, and to ensure that this ethos is embedded into the policies and practices of the organisation. So, it is vital that trustee boards are consistently referring back to the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion. 

We made practical recommendations with examples of how equality, diversity and inclusion can manifest in governance contexts. 

Our work on the Governance Code happened in tandem with multiple other stakeholder groups, and we recommend reading the full document to be updated on all of the changes made, which include: 

  • A strengthened commitment to safeguarding 
  • Increased emphasis on the importance of strong board dynamics and managing conflict well 
  • A clearer and more instructive Control and Risk Management section, including acknowledgement of the emerging risk of climate change 
  • Recommendations based on the challenging current funding climate and the increased need for strong responsive asset mapping and partnership working 

To read the full code, visit the Scottish Governance Code website here.