About us

Our role

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman has a wide remit, covering a variety of functions and services. The Ombudsman’s powers and duties come (predominantly) from the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman Act 2002, which gives her four distinct statutory functions:

  1. the final stage for complaints about most devolved public services in Scotland including councils, the health service, prisons, water and sewerage providers, Scottish Government, universities and colleges
  2. specific powers and responsibilities to publish complaints handling procedures, and monitor and support best practice in complaints handling. Please visit our web pages 'For organisation' for further information.
  3. independent review service for the Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF) with the power to overturn and substitute decisions made by councils on Community Care and Crisis Grant applications. Please visit our SWF website for further information.
  4. Independent National Whistleblowing Officer for the NHS in Scotland (INWO) – from 1 April 2021 – final stage for complaints about how the NHS considers whistleblowing disclosures and the treatment of individuals concerned. Please visit our INWO website for further information.

All of the SPSO's services are free and independent.

Our vision

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman contributes actively and positively to high performing Scottish public services. Recognised for our innovative world-leading approach, we put people and learning at the heart of all we do.

Our strategic themes

We will live our values through four strategic themes that drive our activity and annual business plans. You can click below to see our objectives within each Strategic Theme.

  • 1. We will develop and monitor the Model Complaints Handling Procedures and Model National Whistleblowing Standards, to ensure accessibility is integral to public bodies complaints handling.
  • 2. We will make our own services as accessible as they can be.
  • 3. We will push for legislative change to enable us to make our services and those of other Scottish public bodies accessible.
  • 4. We will continue to develop relationships with our stakeholders to both learn from and to contribute to fair, accessible Scottish public services.

  • 5. We will deliver our statutory functions in line with legislative requirements and our published customer service standards and performance targets.
  • 6. We will contribute to the development of the wider access to justice environment through engagement with relevant groups and stakeholders such as the UK Access to Justice Council, the Open Government Partnership, and other commissioners and ombudsman services.

  • 7. We will continue to push for adequate funding for our functions and seek to develop a more sustainable funding model, recognising the annual budget process but challenging, where appropriate, how it is applied.
  • 8. We will assess and mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our capacity and that of public bodies and other stakeholders to deliver an effective service which meets published standards.
  • 9. We will be acknowledged for having well-trained, properly supported people, who have the tools they need to deliver our services.
  • 10. We will build or maintain our capacity, financial, human and infrastructure, to implement and deliver our statutory functions.
  • 11. We will review and develop the support, guidance and training we offer to public bodies, complainants and whistleblowers to enable them to develop their own capacity, in particular the NHS in developing its capacity in respect of whistleblowing.​​​​​​

  • 12. We will monitor Scottish public bodies’ complaint handling, Scottish Welfare Fund applications and whistleblowing handling, holding them to account for poor performance and giving credit for good performance.
  • 13. We will develop our capacity to gather and share information to enable us to make informed and beneficial interventions when complaint, whistleblowing and Scottish Welfare Fund services fall below accepted standards.
  • 14. We will review the Model Complaints Handling Procedures and National Whistleblowing Standards, to ensure they remain fit for purpose.
  • 15. We will contribute to the development and/ or review of other standards and guidance to ensure they deliver services to the standards required.

Our values

We are committed to living our values to deliver our functions efficiently, effectively and economically. While our remit is wide, and expanding, we aspire to deliver our business coherently and consistently across all functions. We strive to continue to give great service to all who come to us; whether to make a complaint about a public body, seek our advice and support, ask for a review of a Scottish Welfare Fund decision or complain about how the NHS has handled a whistleblowing concern.

At SPSO, we have a great team; dedicated and committed, driven by deep-rooted values of being people centred, fair, independent and learning & improving.

How we live our values can be seen in the diagram here.






Updated: January 26, 2024