Using the Code

Who is the Code for?

The Code is accessible and applicable to all third sector organisations in Scotland, whatever their shape, size or activities. The Code’s principles are universal, how an organisation implements each principle will depend on its size, income, activities and complexity.

How it works

The Code sets out five core principles encouraging third sector organisations to look at, and improve, their governance. All five principles are of equal importance. Each principle has a summary statement, followed by an explanation of how you can demonstrate and implement the principle. The Code is supported by practical resources which can be found on this website.

Complying with the law and regulatory requirements are fundamental to good governance. However, the Code is not a legal or regulatory requirement. It is a tool to support continuous improvement and strengthen the effectiveness of governance across the third sector. It provides a standard for us all to aspire to.


There are many different terms used to define governing bodies of third sector organisations, such as: ‘the board’, ‘the committee’, ‘the trustees’ or ‘the directors.’

The difference between these terms usually reflects the differing legal structure of organisations, and their history and culture. In this Code we use the terms ‘the board’ and ‘the trustees’ to mean the organisation’s governing body – the group or body ultimately accountable for the organisation.

There are various definitions of governance. When we talk about governance here, we are referring to the work of the board, and we feel the five principles of this Code embody good governance.

Equality and diversity

The Code recognises that all third sector organisations should follow practices that fully recognise diversity in all its forms (eg diversity of background, thought and experience, as well as protected characteristics). This is an integral part of good governance and underpins all the five Scottish Governance principles. Diversity, in its widest sense, is essential for boards to be effective, informed and to make better decisions.