Site Meter
    Next step in making a complaint to the SPSO

When making a complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) it is important
that the complainant understands the role of the SPSO, the SPSO act 2002 and the provisions
made to protect the complainant from defamation, what constitutes "Maladministration" and how
to submit a complaint. Your complaint can be strengthened by using this knowledge. Follow the
link below to the steps to making a complaint to the Ombudsman

Link to Step 1: The role of the SPSO
No Justice
Not Transparent
Not Accountable
Not Effective
Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) - Home Page - spso watch
Campaigning for a more accountable & effective Scottish Public Services Ombudsman
                   Double click on colour highlighted text to take the LINK to the document
Background to site

This site has been designed by a member of the public to assist new complainants to the Scottish Public Services
Ombudsman (spso) by giving easy access to information collated from diverse official sources and to highlight
how the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman
(SPSO) have been protecting the authorities by rejecting valid and
irrefutable complaints of maladministration submitted by the public. This site also shows the public how they can
take action to publicise how they were treated by the spso and how they can work together to campaign to get a
more effective and accountable Scottish Ombudsman.

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO), in February 2008, published their 2007 customer satisfaction survey
which supports everything this site has been saying.

Use this link to download a copy of the
ORC International report titled “Scottish Public Services Ombudsman Complaint
Satisfaction Survey 2007” dated February 2008 link.

This official SPSO report clearly demonstrates the failings of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman service and
the levels of DISSATISFACTION of the public who use this publicly funded service.

A total of 62% of the respondents felt the SPSO had not met their original expectations.

The most damming section in the report is where the respondents were asked to comment about “what areas
work well or need to be improved”.

81% of the respondent’s comments fell into the following categories and were highly critical of the service
provided by the SPSO.

1. Excessive time taken to deal with complaint
2. SPSO did not investigate properly   /   look into fully
Total disgrace  /   would never use again   / complete waste of time   /     incompetent
4. Investigation was biased   /   public have no chance   /   never on complainants side
5. SPSO was no help   /   not interested   /   favoured the Council   /   
there to fool the public
6. Very poor service   /   service badly structured
7. Staff not knowledgeable   /   unqualified
Stop avoiding   /   ignoring complaints   /   questions   /   issues
9. Nothing happened   /   no outcome   /   still no explanation
Waste of public funding
11. SPSO did nothing   /   did not take on the case
12. Complaints not dealt with   /   unfairly dealt with
13. Very poor   /   weak reasons for not investigating   /  
dismissed without adequate explanation
14. SPSO afraid to deal with Council   /   will not take on Council   /   Council always wins
15. Not helpful   /   unhelpful   /   no support given
16. Investigation poor   /   fragmented   /   spasmodic
Decision based on Council’s say
18. SPSO exists only as a pretence   /   there is no complaint rights

The above comments were published by the SPSO and show how the public view their service.

It is hoped that eventually the public’s complaints about the way the SPSO is protecting the authorities from valid
and irrefutable complaints of maladministration will increase to a level where they are recognised by the people
and organisations that have the responsibility for managing the SPSO (Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliamentary
Corporate body, Finance Committee, Public Petitions Committee ref PE1076) and action taken to improve
accountability and effectiveness of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

With all the evidence that now exists to show how badly the public are being served by the Scottish Public
Services Ombudsman, it would now be an appropriate time for the Scottish Parliament to ask Audit Scotland to
perform an "economy, efficiency and effectiveness” audit of the SPSO to identify what has gone wrong with this
publicly funded body. This action was identified by Rhoda Grant MSP at the 4th December 2007 meeting to
consider public petition PE1076 but unfortunately was not followed up the Scottish Parliament Public Petitions

There are thousands of members of the public who have suffered a miscarriage of administrative justice at the
hands of the SPSO over the last five years of it’s existence.

The way the SPSO is handling the public’s complaints is a national disgrace and the public need to unite in the
campaign to push for change to get a more accountable and effective Ombudsman service.

This site shows you what is wrong with the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman and how to take effective action
to make the SPSO more accountable.

As a past complainant to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (spso), I wish to make it easier for new
complainants to the Scottish Ombudsman to access information which will assist them to understand what
constitutes a valid complaint and to ensure that the complaint is dealt with properly. All information contained in
this web site is either a direct quote or taken from information supplied by the Scottish Public Services
Ombudsman (spso), Scottish Parliament, Acts of Parliament or the Scottish Executive.

When making a complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (spso) it is important that the complainant
understands the role of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (spso), the Act of Parliament that governs the
spso and the provisions made to protect the complainant from defamation, what constitutes "Maladministration"
and how to submit a complaint. Your complaint can be strengthened by using the knowledge contained within this
web site.
Quotes from members of the public who have used the site:

1. Agree, Agree, Agree. Just to let you know I concur with your views.

2. I have just come across your web site and I am delighted to learn that I am not alone in having grave concerns over the manner in
which the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman operates .  The contacts you give for complaining about the Ombudsman are very much
appreciated and I shall certainly use them . Thanks for the interest you have shown in justice in our country by setting up your website.

3. I am currently drafting a complaint regarding the findings of the SPSO into a complaint I had. Despite the fact the council admitted the
allegation, the SPSO failed to uphold the complaint. Beggers belief!

4. This is to confirm that following a protracted but unsuccessful submission relating to XXX Council, I have expressed my dis-satisfaction
to the SPSO on their handling of the above noted complaint.  I am now in the process of approaching the recommended parties as listed
on your website to further this matter.  Should there be anything you require in order to progress this registration of my complaint,
please do not hesitate to contact me.  In closing may I congratulate you on an excellent website.

5. And I thought I was the only one who had trouble with the Ombudsman!   Thank you for enlightening me - it gives me a lot of hope
and I support you 100 per cent!

6. I have advanced breast cancer, which was misdiagnosed by four years. No amount of effort is going to get the SPSO to uphold my
case. Believe me, I’ve tried. The complaints system has failed me and by the sounds of it, many others. My report was not worth the
paper it was written on. How this situation has been allowed to go on for so long is beyond belief. Action is needed urgently.
Scottish Parliament can you help the Scottish people to get an independent, competent and fair complaints
system? We deserve it!

7. The SPSO writes to me: "At this point it may be helpful to explain that the subjects to be investigated are decided by this
office rather than by complainants. This applies also to the evidence that is considered necessary for the investigation
and to the details that are included in the report
." The implications of this are obvious. Lives will continue to be at risk until MSPs
find the courage to tackle this dreadful outfit.

8. Re. courage of MSPs, what about the courage of the Press? Where are the investigative journalists who could have a field day.

9. Like many others I to have fallen victim of the Scottish Ombudsman. My own solicitor told me that I had a very good case for
maladministration against a local council. I submitted the evidence and you know the rest -
they failed to investigate.  The only
course of action I now have is to write to MSP John Swinney and other MSPs. I know nothing will be done but at least I will have the
satisfaction of letting them know how a local authority treats a disabled man in the 21st century in Scotland - and gets away with it!
not looking for sympathy, just fair play, which I simply did not get from the Scottish Ombudsman. The sooner they close
this down the better for Scotland.

10. The SPSO is any example of a public sector agency which masquerades as standing for justice and democracy but in reality are
there to protect their cronies in the public sector agencies they are supposed to be monitoring.

What the MSPs said about the SPSO on the 4th December 2007 - PE1076

MSPs voice concern regarding the service provided by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman during the Scottish Parliament Public
Petitions Committee debate on the petition 1076.

Mr Whittet's petition was

"Petition PE1076: Petition by D W R Whittet QPR calling for the Scottish Parliament to set up an Appeal Tribunal
to review final decisions by the Public Services Ombudsman where any complainer so requests."

and can be viewed on the web site at

The full text of Petition PE1076 detailing the extensive problems with the spso can be downloaded using this LINK

The petition was supported by 43 members of the public who had experienced similar problems with the spso.

Mr Whittet has the support of Mudro Fraser MSP
who presented the issues with the spso to the petitions committee.

The debate of the petition can be viewed on the
Scottish Parliament TV site LINK. ( To view the debate about the petition move the slide bar until you are 1 hrs
12 minutes into the debate.

debate text can be viewed using this LINK.

This is what the MSPs said:

Murdo Fraser (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con): Thank you for the invitation to the committee. Mr Whittet is indeed a constituent of
mine, and his petition relates to a proposed right of appeal against decisions that are made by the Scottish Public Services
Ombudsman. The substance of his complaint is not particularly relevant to the petition; his concerns are about the way in which his case
was handled by the SPSO, what he felt were administrative failures and a failure to address the basis of his complaint.
The practice of the SPSO is to issue a draft before its report is laid before Parliament, to allow comments to be made. In Mr Whittet's
case, he commented but, in his opinion, his comments were entirely ignored. The petitioner feels that a complainer has no right to
challenge a view that the ombudsman's office takes. Given what he feels are the failures in the handling of cases by the ombudsman's
office, that needs to be addressed.
From my experience, Mr Whittet's views are by no means unique.

I have been contacted by several other constituents who had similar concerns about the
way in which the ombudsman handles cases.

I have raised the concerns in the Parliament, at Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body question time and when the current ombudsman
was reappointed earlier in the year. I know that other members have similar concerns. Since the petition was lodged, Mr Whittet and I
have been contacted by several members of the public expressing similar concerns.

Rhoda Grant MSP: If people are unhappy with the way in which the system works, the office of the ombudsman
should be reconsidered to find out where those concerns are coming from.

Nigel Don MSP: I am with Rhoda Grant—if something is wrong, it is in the ombudsman's office; that is
the bit we should fix instead of looking for a further appeal mechanism.

Murdo Fraser MSP: I have detected fairly widespread concerns about the manner in which the ombudsman's office operates in
relation to the investigation of complaints. The committee might be minded to pursue that matter further with the ombudsman's office
and with the corporate body, which would be the appropriate level of government to deal with such matters.

Rhoda Grant MSP: Does Audit Scotland have a role to play? Could Audit Scotland examine the workings of
the ombudsman's office
? It might be worth writing to it to ask.

The MSPs recognised that the problem might lie with the people running the spso and not actually the legislation
that governs them. They also recognised that Audit Scotland could examine effectiveness of the spso. The
Convenor agreed to explore this suggestion to ask Audit Scotland what they could do to investigate the
problems with the spso.

The petitions committee called for written evidence to be gathered by the 8th January 2008 to allow further consideration of
the petition on the 19th February 2008.
Twenty five members of the public sent in written submissions to the
petitions committee recording all of the problems they had experienced with the spso and their suggestions for
improvements to the spso service.

Mr Whittett submitted a supplementary document to the petitions committee LINK.

Mr Whittet submitted another letter to the petitions committee dated 20th January 2008 LINK in which he summaries what he
thinks of the SPSO.

Irrefutable evidence was provided to the SPSO, but it was ignored and a flawed and misleading report
subsequently produced and published.
I have never read such a biased report.
I consider the dismissal of my complaints wholly unjust and mockery of the principles of justice.
Maladministration did occur, including maladministration on the behalf of the Ombudsman and her staff.
I have never encountered such incompetence, maladministration and dismissive treatment as that perpetrated by
the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

The abject failure not to include one single comment made by me on her Draft Report in the Final Report, was
particularly reprehensible. As a principle of justice my comments, as complainer, should have been included in
full and acknowledged.
The adoption of such tactics concealed the true facts of the case and created bias in favour of
senior officials of Perth & Kinross Council. She (Professor Brown) has proved to be beyond reproach and answerable to no
one. The "laying" of Reports before the Scottish Parliament is but a "paper exercise". These reports are simply placed in the
library where they are seen by no one. They are certainly not debated.

Mr Whittet ended his letter with the following paragraph

"I served in tayside Police for almost 35 years, 12 years at senior supervisory level.
In all my experience dealing with
innumerable crimes, minor and major, complaint etc., I never encountered such incompetence, maladministration
and dismissive treatment as that perpetrated by senior officials of Perth & Kinross Council and the Scottish
Public Services Ombudsman. I rest my case."

What the MSPs said about the SPSO on the 3rd October 2007

MSPs voice concern regarding the service provided by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman during the Scottish Parliament debate
on the Crerar report.
I would like to thank these MSPs for voicing their concerns about the SPSO. This is what some of the
MSPs said:

Derek Brownlee (South of Scotland) (Con): In relation to the recommendations on complaints, and on the role of the Scottish Public
Sector Ombudsman in particular, a note of caution has to be struck. There is a certain logic in some of the Crerar recommendations,
it is not obvious whether the Scottish Public Sector Ombudsman, as currently constituted, is handling its existing
remit to the satisfaction of the public.
Unless and until we can be clear that the SPSO is handling its current tasks appropriately, we
should be wary of extending its role.

Tavish Scott (Shetland) (LD): I cannot be the only constituency member who is a bit concerned about the SPSO's delivery.

Keith Brown (Ochil) (SNP): the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman—I share the concerns of Tavish Scott and others about it—can
only consider maladministration, but the public does not realise that and thinks that the body has a far wider remit, which is why people
can become frustrated.
The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman started off fairly well with the good intention of drawing in more
areas, such as health, but it
has lost its way. I have worked with the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman's office for the past 10 years
it is not operating as people envisaged it would.

Stuart McMillan (West of Scotland) (SNP):
Those two recommendations would greatly assist the public in their quest for improved public services and a reliable and robust
complaints system, and would improve belief in our public services. The quid pro quo, however, is that even greater powers would be
given to the SPSO. I am sure that many members, both past and present, have taken up cases on behalf of constituents—
there is a
great deal of uncertainty among the public about the SPSO and its effectiveness.

Many people might wonder whether it is worth bothering to complain, bearing in mind the percentage of complaints that are upheld: 1.16
per cent in 2003-04; 0.58 per cent in 2004-05; 3.13 per cent in 2005-06; and 8 per cent in 2006-07.
I for one do not believe that those figures represent a true account of legitimate complaints throughout Scotland; neither do I believe
that 100 per cent of complaints are valid. However, the poor figures to date beg the question whether it would be wise to give the SPSO
even more powers and responsibility.

Many and varied complaints were sent to Inverclyde Council and the SPSO,
yet the SPSO refused to meet the complainants or to
respond to aspects of the final report, which backed up Inverclyde Council.

I have spoken to members from different parts of the country and discovered that there is a significant lack of public
confidence in the SPSO,
so giving the SPSO more powers is not the correct way forward. Before there is any increase in the powers
of the SPSO, fundamental questions that I would like to be answered include: whether the SPSO should accept undated documents;
whether it should meet complainants;
why so many people are deeply unhappy with the way in which the SPSO has
investigated complaints
; and whether the SPSO should consider best value when considering complaints about public services. I
welcome the Crerar review, which is a useful starting point for further consultation and for improving the complaints procedure in
Scotland. However, I caution against giving the SPSO more powers.

It is imperative not only that we consider the problems that might lie ahead if we gave the SPSO greater powers, but that we ask who
would keep watch on it. If the SPSO is to be empowered in this way,
we must have assurances that the organisation will be
changed and improved and that we will not have the same problems that so many people have experienced.
Indeed, Andy
Kerr and Derek Brownlee have already alluded to that.

The Minister for Parliamentary Business (Bruce Crawford): He makes an important point about the effectiveness of the SPSO. A
number of members, such as Christine Grahame and Stuart McMillan, raised the issue, but approached it from a different perspective. It
is clear that, whatever one's perspective,
the role of the ombudsman will require to be revisited.

The full text of the debate can be found at the Scottish Parliament web site or downloaded using this link: Scottish Parliament debate to
review the Crerar report.

There was also a public debate on the Herald newspaper web site from Scottish Ombudsman Watch supporters after the Scottish
Parliament debated the Crerar report. The debate is still open so if you feel strongly about the SPSO, then you can still post your
comments (The last comment was posted on the 20th October) .
Follow this link to the Herald's web site (link) or download the debate

What the MSPs said about the SPSO on the 28th March 2007

MSPs voice concern regarding the service provided by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman during the Scottish Parliament debate
to re-appoint Professor Brown. This is what some of the MSPs said:

Jeremy Purvis (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) (LD): Is the member aware that one deficiency of the reports that are presented to
the Parliament is the lack of clarity about the internal workings of the ombudsman's office,
particularly the length of time the
ombudsman can take to deal with cases?

Murdo Fraser (
Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con): Mr Scott is aware that I have raised with him and the corporate body several concerns
about the ombudsman's office's handling of complaints.
I have expressed concerns about undue delays in the preparation of
cases, to which Mr Purvis referred, and weaknesses in the quality of investigations and reports.
What assurances have
been sought from the ombudsman that procedures will be altered, on her reappointment, to ensure that such failings will be prevented
in the future?

John Scott (Ayr) (Con): We have received 20 complaints about the ombudsman, which have primarily been about the time it has
taken to handle complaints
and the quality of the complaint handling. We thought that it was appropriate to raise those issues with
her at interview. In response, she assured us that there will be improvements. The SPCB will also regularly monitor performance against
agreed targets. I would be more than happy to lodge the resulting reports before the Parliament as we receive them.

Mr John Swinney (North Tayside) (SNP):The second and more significant issue is the ethos of the Scottish public services
ombudsman's organisation.
I would be much more comfortable with the work of the ombudsman's office if it focused on
delivering a much more rigorous and robust critique of the operation of public services.
MSPs must be absolutely confident
that the Scottish public services ombudsman service will be robust with public organisations.
I am very uneasy about the situation at
I hear the reassurances John Scott gave us, and I look forward with enthusiasm to ensuring that the ombudsman addresses
the issue in her second term of office. I have the feeling that she has not taken that approach in her first term of office.
She must take
a much more robust approach towards public organisations in order to guarantee that the public interest is fully and
adequately served.

Alex Neil
(Central Scotland) (SNP):There are currently four problems with the ombudsman's office. First, to be fair, the
resources required to do the job, to date, have not been made available to the ombudsman. We are going some way towards solving
that problem, but I suspect that we need to go further. Secondly, the turnaround times for cases are far too long. It has taken more than
a year for the ombudsman to decide whether to investigate a case that I am dealing with.
Thirdly, the variability of the quality of the
service is, frankly, not acceptable.
It depends too much on which particular investigator handles the case, rather than on overall
quality control in the office.

Mr Jeremy Purvis MSP opposed the re-appointment of Professor Brown as the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman and
the following MSPs abstained: Alex Fergusson and Derek Brownlee.

The full text of the debate can be found at the Scottish Parliament web site or downloaded using this link:
Parliament debate to re-appoint Professor Brown

It should be noted that the number of complaints remaining open has increased from 280/year in 2003/2004 and 2004/2005 to 920/year
in 2005/2006 (more than half of all complaints submitted are still open after a year). This clearly demonstrates why the public feel so
much frustration with the delay in their complaints being investigated and this is being reflected in what the MSPs are saying in
Justice delayed is justice denied.

There was also a public debate in the Scotsman's web site after the Scottish Parliament re-appointed Professor Brown.
Follow this link to the
Scotsman's web site (link) or download the debate here
What's new on the web site

1.  See new web pages "SPSO in denial" link for details of the SPSO claim that no one complains about their decisions and
"Simple guide to FOI" link which assists you in making a valid Freedom of Information request for information from the
Authorities and/or the SPSO.

2. See new web pages
"Who guards the Guards" link and "Criagforth report" link for the independent research which shows
that 52% of NHS complainants were very dissatisfied with the outcome of their complaint to the SPSO and only 15% showed
any satisfaction.

3. The Scottish Patients Association are also concerned about how the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman treats NHS
complaints. They are writing to the Health Minister regarding the issues their members have experienced when they
complained to the SPSO. If you have a medical complaint then it is recommended that you also contact the Scottish Patients
Association before submitting a complaint to the SPSO. The Scottish Patients Association can be contacted at the
Patients Association web site link. The Scottish Patients Association have also issued a press release which details their
objectives and contact details.
The Scotland Patients Association press release can be downloaded here (link).

4. The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body have released an overview of the complaints made to them about the Scottish
Public Services Ombudsman
. Use this link to download a copy of the overview of complaints (link)

5. The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) had 919 outstanding complaints at the end of March 2007. So with the
increase in budget from the Parliament and increased number of investigators employed by the Scottish Public Services
Ombudsman, they spectacularly failed to reduce the number of outstanding complaints at year end. In fact it went up by 20
outstanding complaints from the 899 outstanding complaints they had at March 2006. Also 33% of the outstanding
complaints were submitted more than one year ago and one even dated back to October 2002.
SPSO outstanding
complaints versus date submitted at March 2007 (link)

6. The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Board (SPCB) recognise and acknowledge the existence of the Scottish
Ombudsman Watch web site when they were considering the re-appointment of Professor Brown. Follow this link to the
SPCB report or download the report here

7. In 2006/2007 the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) received 42 complaints about the service they provide,
an increase of 36% over the number of complaints they received in 2005/2006
My Experience of using the SPSO

Unfortunately my experience of complaining to the Scottish Ombudsman has been that they are there to protect the
authorities from all valid and irrefutable complaints of maladministration.

The spso refused to accept any evidence which proved maladministration.

The spso claimed they could not question anything the authorities did or said even if it  completely contradicted
the laws and guidelines of this land.

The concept that the Ombudsman provides an independent, impartial and transparent quasi-judicial complaints service to
the public is right. The problem however is the way the current Ombudsman rejects valid and irrefutable complaints of
maladministration with impunity.

In my case the spso gave the impression that they were investigating my complaint, then after three years of
they rejected my complaint as they never “formally” accepted the complaint in the first place.

After 3 years, my complaint just became one of the many complaints that were deemed not valid.

Each year the spso determine that  80+% of complaints submitted are not valid. So if the SPSO have dealt with
your case the same way as the dealt with mine then you need to take actions now.

My complaint just became one of these statistics and was never reported to Parliament as it was not "formally

The most unjust aspect of my complaint was that after 3 years of complaining about how my complaint had been handled by
the spso, the Scottish Ombudsman forced the Council to take the enforcement action I had originally requested 4 years
earlier. The Scottish Ombudsman ruled that the Council's failure to take the correct enforcement action was not
Surely a 4 year delay qualifies as maladministration.......not if you are the current Ombudsman.

The spso act makes the Ombudsman's position completely independent and unaccountable to anyone including the
Ministers and MSPs. That is why the current Ombudsman is able to treat the public the way she has.
This web site was set
up purely due to the injustice of the way I had been treated by the Scottish Ombudsman and the belief that I was
probably not the only one who had been treated in this manner.
I was correct that I was not alone in my experiences of
the Ombudsman service. Since setting up the site
I have been contacted by a significant number of members of the
who have received similar treatment from the Scottish Ombudsman. These members of the public have
contacted their MSPs and their level of dissatisfaction with the service being provided by the Ombudsman is
being raised in the Scottish Parliament.

My complaint pales into insignificance compared to how the Ombudsman has treated people who have complained about
poor medical care from the NHS. These people are the real victims of the current complaints handling system. The Patior
web site details their experiences with complaining to the Scottish Ombudsman and you can also get a flavour of the levels of
dissatisfaction with the Ombudsman from the comments posted on the Scotsman and Herald newspaper web sites (links to
Scotsman and Herald articles can be found on this web page at the end of the MSPs comments sections)

The spso are the Guardians of the complaints system in Scotland.
They tell everyone how to run a model complaints

One interesting fact about the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman is they do not accept any complaints about their
own performance, do not formally investigate these complaints and do not report these complaints publicly or to
the Scottish Parliament.

How can an organisation tell someone how to run a model complaints system when they do not accept any
complaints or opportunities to improve themselves?

Why does the Scottish Parliament allow this situation to exist?

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman has now been in operation for 5 years. In these 5 years the SPSO has only ever
been subjected to an annual financial audit from Audit Scotland. No other audits have ever been performed to determine if
the current Ombudsman is providing the service to the public that the Parliament envisaged or the quasi judicial service that
Professor Brown claims she is providing.

The Ministers and MSPs cannot question or hold the Scottish Ombudsman to account. The only action the Ministers and
MSPs can take i
s to ask Audit Scotland to perform an "economy, efficiency and effectiveness examination audit"
with particular focus on investigating all complaints about the service provided by the SPSO
including interviews
with the people who have submitted these complaints (The spso do not accept that anyone complains about their decisions
see web page "SPSO in denial"!).

There are thousands of members of the public who have suffered a miscarriage of administrative justice at the
hands of the SPSO over the last five years of it’s existence. If you are one of them then join the campaign to get
the Scottish Parliament to change the way the current SPSO operates by following the steps detailed below:

The important message from this website is:

1. the public should continue to submit complaints about the authorities to the Scottish Public Services
Ombudsman (spso)

2. if the Ombudsman rejects a valid complaint, then the public should complain about how their complaint has
been handled, firstly to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. See web page "defamation" as regards to the
protection from defamation afforded by the Act of Parliament when complaining to the Scottish Ombudsman.
Once you have documented your complaint about the service provided by the Scottish Ombudsman and sent it
to the SPSO, you can simply copy this complaint to the MSPs and then refer to it.

3. complain to your constituency MSP, your seven regional MSPs (
use this link to find your regional MSPs), John
Swinney MSP Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Mr Alex Ferguson MSP Presiding Officer for the Scottish
Parliament, and Mr Mike Pringle MSP who is responsible for the Ombudsman. When complaining to the MSPs
you should also ask the MSPs and Ministers to initiate an Audit Scotland examination audit into "economy,
efficiency and effectiveness" with particular focus on investigating all complaints about the service provided by
the SPSO, including interviews with the people who have submitted these complaints

4. Send Audit Scotland a copy of your complaint to the SPSO (from step 2.) and ask them to perform an audit into
"economy, efficiency and effectiveness" of the SPSO. Send you SPSO complaint letters to Mr Robert Black,
Auditor General, Audit Scotland, 110 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4LH

5. Lastly all dissatisfied members of the public should consider documenting the problems they have
experienced with the SPSO by submitting them to the Scottish Parliament Public Petitions Committee in the form
of a petiton so that there is a permanent record of their complaint which cannot be ignored by the Scottish
Parliament. Mr Whittet submitted the first public petition
PE1076  Link in late 2007 documenting the problems he
experienced when he complained to the SPSO. If the petitions committee get lots of petitions concerning the
operation of the SPSO then eventually the Scottish Parliament will not be able to ignore the  miscarriages of
administrative justice that the public have suffered at the hands of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SP
{SO). Use this
Public Petitions Guidance LINK to go to the web site which gives information on how to submit a
public petition.

If everyone complains about the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (spso), then eventually the ground swell
of dissatisfaction will be heard by the MSPs and Audit Scotland will be required to audit the spso to confirm if
Professor Brown is providing the quasi-judicial service she claims she is. It is also hoped that the MSPs will
revisit and revise the Act that governs the Scottish Ombudsman. The Act should be changed so that it clearly
defines what maladministration is, makes the Ombudsman report to Parliament all complaints about the service
she provides, introduce an independent appeals process overseen by the Lord Advocate and give the MSPs the
power to question the Scottish Ombudsman about individual complaints. The Scottish Ombudsman must be
made more accountable to the Scottish Parliament and public.

I would like to thank all the members of the public who have taken the advice detailed above and complained to
the SPSO and then to the MSPs.

This strategy appears to be working. The MSPs have started to voice concerns about how the Ombudsman
operates and the rising level of dissatisfaction being expressed by members of the public. The MSPs first raised
concerns during the debate to re-appoint Professor Brown on the 28th March 2007 then again during the Crerar
report debate on the 3rd October 2007 and most recently at the Public Petitions Committee debate into PE1076
on the 4th December 2007 . The issues raised by the MSPs in Parliament are detailed below:
This site is no longer being maintained. I have left this site on the web to
document my experiences with the SPSO and how they completely failed
the public. I am hopeful that in the future the travesty of justice that is the
SPSO will be exposed and maybe this site will show how the Scottish
Parliament and Scottish Government ignored the warning signs. The
Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government do not want an effective
SPSO which provides justice for the public. It appears they want an
organisation which buries all injustices in a black hole where there is no
further avenue for appeal.

The site has useful info on planning complaints and how to make a
Freedom of Information request.

If you suffer injustice at the hands of the SPSO then I would recommend
that you write reviews on
Trustpilot (click link here) and on Google
Feedback. That way the level of dissatisfaction with the spso will be

Google feedback can be found by Going to search page. Input
"spso" and click search. Scroll down until you see "Scottish Public
Services Ombudsman" reviews directly below map. Click "Scottish Public
Services Ombudsman" review which brings up another page. Scroll down
to the "Review Summary". Click on box to right  which says "Write a
review". At August 2019 there were 30 reviews.

Some of the recent comments are similar to my experience over fifteen
years ago. Nothing appears to have changed, even with a new Ombudsman.
Update July 2013: J.W.H. McLean, a supporter of Scottish Ombudsman Watch, has submitted a public petition to the Scottish
Parliament Title
PE01489: Realignment of Parliamentary Governance on Scottish Public Services Ombudsman The
supporting documents can be found on the
J. W. H. McLean public petition web page (link).

Scottish Ombudsman Watch has made the following submission to the Local Government and Regeneration
Committee for the annual review of the spso on the 23rd January 2103.

"Since inception of the spso in 2003, the spso has deliberately withheld from the Scottish Parliament all details of
the level of complaints from the members of the public about their decisions. They have been able to do this by
having two categories of complaints. The first category is “service delivery” complaints relating to being treated
unfairly or rudely, failed to explain things clearly, or caused unreasonable delays which they are happy to report to
Parliament. The Second category is “decision complaints” which they have never reported to Parliament or
included in their annual reports as confirmed by the spso in their FOI response dated 27th April 2012.

The FOI response dated 27th April 2012 also shows that the level of complaints about the spso’s decisions has
increased by a factor of 5+ times since Jim Martin took over as Ombudsman compared to the previous
Ombudsman Professor Brown (There was 120 decision complaints in the period 2004 to 2008 and 640 decision
complaints in the period 2009 to 2012).

640 complaints about the spso’s decisions in the last 4 years is a significant indicator of the level of dissatisfaction
by members of the public regarding the supposed provision of administrative justice from the spso."

To view full submission and FOI response click on

Update March 2011: I4S member Andrew Muir submitted the following petition PE1405 link November 2011.

Update March 2011: The Former Holyrood Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson MSP and Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body
ignored the public's "unsolicited" representations regarding the re-apppointment of Jim Martin to the post of Scottish
Ombudsman and  recommended that he be given a further six years. I have obtained the public's "unsolicited"
representations to the re-appointment committee and would let you be the judge of the cavalier way the SPCB ignored the
public's concerns.
Submission 1 (link),  Submission 2 (link), Submissions 3 (link), Submissions 4 (link), Submissions 5 (link)

When it came to a vote on the re-appointment of Jim Martin, Alex Neil MSP forced a vote. The vote was For 98, Against 8,
Abstentions 9. I would like to thank the following MSPs for voting NO Angela Constance (Livingston) (SNP) Joe FitzPatrick
(Dundee West) (SNP), Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP), Christopher Harvie (Mid Scotland and Fife) (SNP)
Michael Matheson (Falkirk West) (SNP), Stuart McMillan (West of Scotland) (SNP), Alex Neil (Central Scotland) (SNP), Gil
Paterson (West of Scotland) (SNP). The previous Ombudsman had 1 MSP vote against her re-appointment so the campaign
to alert the MSPs to the problem with the spso is working as 8 voted no and 9 preferred not to vote for the motion.

Update F
ebruary 2011: The Local Government and Communities committee closed the eight public petitions against the
Scottish Public Services Ombudsman in under three minutes. See link to Peter Cherbi
"A diary of injustice in Scotland" site
which gives all of the details of this disgraceful abuse of power to maintain an unjust complaints handling system in

Update December  2010: The nine public petitions were considered by the petitions committee on the 23rd November.  Alex
Neil MSP supported the petitions by saying "There are two issues here. First, there has been an improvement in turnaround
times since the new ombudsman took office but, since the last time I appeared before this committee on this subject my
postbag has been inundated with complaints about the ombudsman, most of which are fairly recent, so it is clear that there
is still quite a bit of disquiet. Secondly, my observation is that there is a lack of investigative skills in the ombudsman's
office; that is the source of most of the complaints. There is also a lack of powers; the ombudsman can make
recommendations but he does not have much power. If the SPSO's role were benchmarked against that of the information
commissioner, I submit that the information commissioner's office would be found to be much more effective than the SPSO,
albeit it has a slightly different remit. Like Murdo Fraser, I think there is a need for an independent investigation into the
effectiveness, powers and remit of the SPSO. The performance issues, particularly in relation to investigative skills, should
be investigated. There is a need to talk to users. Although the Local Government and Communities Committee considers an
annual report from the ombudsman, it has never actually spoken to any of the users of the service. The ombudsman found
in favour of many of the petitioners, but they were still left with a great deal of frustration, either at the time that was taken
or because nothing happened thereafter. See link
Public Petitions Committee Official Report 23 November 2010 Col 3149

Update November 2010: Jim Martin's response letter link claims that the spso only received 21 "comeback complaints" in
2009/2010. What Jim Martin fails to tell the public petitions committee was that 226 members of the public also complained
about his decision regarding their spso cases. When the public complain about a decision made by the spso they call them
"comeback complaints" which are never mentioned to the Government committees or Petitions committee. The Scottish
Ombudsman Web site however tracks these "comeback complaints" and Jim Martin received 16 times more complaints
about his decisions that he actually investigated (only 14 investigations in 2009/10). The spso were forced to publish their
letters of response to these comeback complaints by the Scottish Information Commissioner but bury them inside their web
site so no one can find them ...that was until now. Use this link to see Jim Martin's response to these
"case work decision
complaints response letters link".  Go to bottom of SPSO website page to see the response letters.

Mr Fergusson MSP  and Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament is currently reviewing the re-appointment of Jim Martin
as Ombudsman for a period of six years.  The Scottish Ombudsman Web site submitted the following evidence to the re-
appointment committee
SOW submission to re-appointment committee link
2. Murdo Fraser MSP letter to petitions committee link
3. FOI response # 1from spso detailing performance link
4. FOI response # 2 from spso detailing performance link

Update October 2010: Dr Rahman has submitted a response letter link to the replies the petitions committee received from
the spso and the Government departments and has also asked that people interested in her case visit her
blog link.

Update September 2010: Nine petitions have been submitted to the Scottish parliament regarding problems with how the
SPSO is failing to provide a service to the public. Alex Neil MSP asked 7 of his constituents who have had bad experiences
complaining to the spso to submit 7 of these petitions. At the petitions committee meeting Alex Neil said "To quote one of
the petitioners, it ~(the spso) is not worth a farthing in terms of the quality of service that petitioners have received.”
Please see Peter Cherbi
"Diary Of injustice web site link" for a full summary of the meeting including video clips of Alex Neil
at the petitions committee.

Update July 2010: A new epetition has been submitted by Dr Rahman. The e petition seeks to 1- Request from the Public
Audit Committee to inspect the ineffective and inefficient faulty SPSO operation. 2- Established a pathway for the public to
complain about the faulty management (decisions and times taken to do them) of their complaints at the SPSO. Please can
all members of the public, who wish to have fairer complaints handling system, sign the e petition to show how much the
public are dis-satisfied with the spso. Click on this link to take you to the e petition
spso e petition link

Latest News February 2010: Review of Jim Martin's Scottish Ombudsman performance in his first five months of office at the
SPSO shows that he is worse than Professor Brown who he replaced. A Freedom of Information request was made to the
SPSO and the performance information released can be downloaded using the
"FOI SPSO performance May - Sept 2009"

From the SPSO's response it can be noted that only 1 out of 280 complaints submitted in the first 5 months of Jim Martin's
stewardship of the SPSO lead to an investigation ie the SPSO received 1400 complaints in the period May to September
2009 and the SPSO performed only 5 investigations. Surely 1400 members of the public cannot be that wrong or is the SPSO
just there to protect their cronies in the authorities they are meant to be investigating.

Jim Martin Scottish Ombudsman has also closed 150 of the 505 outstanding investigations and it would appear from
feedback from some members of the public that their cases were simply closed by Jim martin saying "complaint closed my
decision is final". This is administrative justice the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman way.

In 07/08 the SPSO received 71 comeback complaints about their decisions and 08/09 144 comeback complaints and in the
first 5 months of 09/10 Jim Martin has received 119 complaints about his decisions which works out as double the complaint
rate pro rata as compared to 08/09....this means that he is receiving twice as many complaints about his decisions than
Professor Brown received.

Latest News December 2009: This web site has been saying that the SPSO has not been providing  an effective complaints
handling service to the Scottish Public. Well now it has been officially acknowledged by the SPSO themselves. Jim Martin,
the new Scottish Ombudsman asked Mr Jerry White, Local Government Ombudsmen for England to review the handling of
one of the SPSO's complaints and made the following comment

"I conclude that the SPSO’s handling of the complaint was characterised by very considerable delay and confusion. Bluntly,
it is the worst case of complaint handling by an Ombudsman’s office that I have seen."

This report was laid before Parliament so the MSPs know that the SPSO do not provide a just and effective complaints
handling service. The question is why do the MSPs allow this travesty of justice to continue and allow the SPSO to dupe the
public into thinking they will get a fair and impartial hearing of their complaint when in reality they will only find their valid
complaints ignored and buried by the Scottish Ombudsman Service.

The full report can be found at the
SPSO's web site (link) or downloaded directly here "LGO report on SPSO performance

Latest News August 2009: New Ombudsman, but no change, same old problem. Jim Martin was appointed as the new
Ombudsman in May 2009. A lot of supporters have contacted this site to say that they have had their investigations
terminated mid investigation by Jim Martin without explanation. Jim Martin used to be the Police Complaints Commissioner.
One Supporter had cause to submit a complaint to Jim Martin when he was PCC and found that his complaint was not
handled properly and the then Ombudsman (Professor Brown) criticised the Police Complaints Commissioner (Jim Martin)
for issuing his final reports without allowing the complainant an opportunity to comment of the validity of the information
contained within. The SPSO recommended that the "PCCS reconsider their decision not to issue draft reports, in order to
allow any possible errors of fact to be amended prior to the publication of a final report".
See SPSO report on PCC (link).

Jim Martin is only in the position for two years then has to re-apply for the job.  I would recommend that anyone who has
their complaint rejected by Jim Marin should submit a public petition to the Scottish Parliament to highlight their case and
ask for Jim Martin to be removed from office. Use this link to find out more about
public petitons (LINK). I would also
complain to
Alex Ferguson Presiding Officer (Link) and request that your complaint be kept on record and reviewed when
the SPCB determine if Jim Martin is to be re-appointed when his term of office comes to an end in May 2011.

Latest news February  2009 - Murdo Fraser MSP calls on the Committee reviewing the SPCB supported bodies to improve
the accountability of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (
double click for LINK to his submission). Murdo Fraser’s
submission documents many of the issues his constituents have experienced when using the services of the SPSO office.
The issues he has raised echoes many of the issues I have raised on my web site.

For example Murdo Fraser MSP says:
1. I have concerns that the SPSO office does not in all cases satisfactorily fulfil its duties”
2. There seems to be several similar criticisms that my constituents have noted regarding their case. These can be
summarised as follows:
a.The length of time taken to decide whether or not to take the complaint to an investigation.
b. The length of time taken to undertake the investigation
c. The quality of the investigation
d. The quality of the final report
e. The lack of dialogue and opportunity to change the draft report once it has been completed; and
f.  The way that the complaint was generally handled by the SPSO office
These underlying problems of the SPSO office in relation to a complainant’s case must be resolved in order to have an
effective Ombudsman’s office.
3.  Another issue is lack of accountability. I believe that there should be a more systematic way of ensuring that the
Ombudsman is held to account more regularly by the Parliament. I understand that the SPSO has to be independent of
Parliament. However, apart from judicial review, there is no way for a complainant to call into account the work of the SPSO.
Stronger accountability is required so that MSPs can question any reports that constituents have concerns with and can
also question the conduct of the office.
An additional 13 submissions were made by members of the public to the Scottish Parliament Committee reviewing the
SPSO. These submissions can be reviewed by clicking on the link to the
"2009 MSP review of SPSO" web page on this site

There is now a wealth of evidence to show how Professor Brown has not been running a quasi judicial service for the
public. Hopefully the MSPs on the Committee reviewing the SPCB supported Bodies will not ignore this evidence and will
take positive action to improve the effectiveness and accountability of the SPSO as recommended by Murdo Fraser MSP.

Latest news August 2008: Question: When is a complaint not a complaint? Answer:
when you complain about the SPSO's decisions.

Scottish Ombudsman Watch has just learned that the SPSO have two types of complaints; "service quality" and "outcome"
complaints.  If you look at their web site the SPSO only report "service quality complaints" and claim that no one complains
about their decisions! The SPSO have now been forced to acknowledge they get "outcome complaints" where people
complain about their decisions (641 complaints to date
see FOI response for details double click LINK).........why are the
SPSO hiding the fact that people complain about their decisions! What have they to hide? This is the organisation which is
meant to show how a modern complaints system is implemented and operated. If the SPSO cannot operate a visible and
transparent complaints system about themselves, then how can we expect the public authorities under their control to
operate a complaints system? Gregor Hamilton submitted this evidence to the Scottish Parliament as part of his
evidence in support of petition PE1163 double click LINK.

Latest news June 2008: Professor Brown decides to stand down after 9 months into her second 4 year term. Prof Brown no
longer wants to be the Scottish Ombudsman and is leaving on the 31st March 2009, two and a half years before she needed
to. This is brilliant news for all of the members of the public who have had their valid and irrefutable complaints of
maladministration incorrectly rejected by Professor Brown. The Scottish Ombudsman Watch web site would like to thank
everyone who has taken part in the campaign to get a more accountable and effective Ombudsman, your hard work has
been effective. Professor Brown's departure is a start to getting an effective quasi-judicial Ombudsman who protects the
public from the authorities.
Professor Brown's departure letter can be read here (link)
There are two campaign groups that are largely made up of people who have contacted this web site with similar
bad experiences with the spso and that campaign for transparent public accountability in Scottish governance
and for improvements in all aspects of the Scottish complaints handling service. One is ‘Accountability Scotland’
and the other
is ‘Integrity4Scotland’. Details including how to contact and support them, are to be found
on their websites:  and

A headmaster has asked that I publish on my site his experiences of first complaining to the HMIE then spso. The
complete details of his experiences can be viewed on the web page
"HIME & spso link". The headmaster
complained to the HMIE about an inspection report. The headmaster was not happy with the HMIE response and
was informed that he could complain to the spso. The complainant contacted the spso on the 2nd August 2008,
then had to vigorously campaign to have his complaint authorised for investigation which eventually was
approved by Professor Brown on the 23rd April 2009. The spso did not perform an investigation and on the 7th
December 2009 the new Ombudsman Jim Martin decided the spso would not investigate the complaint and made
the complaint disappear. The headmaster sent a report "Accountability and complaint handling of Scotland's
public services and the role of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman"
(click this link to view report) to the
Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body who have responsibility for the spso. The Scottish Parliamentary
Corporate Body have taken no action. All members of the public, MSPs and regulators should read his report as
this is the norm not the exception of how members of the public are treated when they complain about public
services in Scotland.

My experience has been very similar and unfortunately after 5 years of campaigning through the correct channels
the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body , Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament all seem to want to
have an ineffective Scottish Ombudsman.

Scottish Ombudsman Watch now has written proof that the Local Government & Regeneration Committee MSPs
ignored all of the public's submissions regarding the spso. On the 17th January 2013, David Cullum, Clerk to the
LR&RC Clerk to LG&RC assured the spso that

"I am receiving a steady stream of correspondence from the public in advance of the session, as yet I have not
determined how to deal with it but suspect from the content that all and their issues are familiar to you. I am not
anticipating any individual issue being raised by members, at least none that arises from the correspondence
coming in."

The David Cullum's email can be reviewed by clicking on the link
"FOI 2013-493695 Reply 20130325 (part 3)"

The public's submissions which the LG&RC ignored can be reviewed by clicking on the link "FOI 2013-493695 Reply
20130325 (part 2)"

I have come to the conclusion that the only way the Scottish Public can raise their concerns about the spso is
through the public petitions forum. The MSPs cannot stop the public submitting the petitions and if enough are
submitted they will not be able to ignore them.

The key to getting the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body and Scottish Government to
take action will be by encouraging everyone who has had their complaint rejected to submit a public petition
detailing their concerns and how they were treated. If the Scottish Parliament received 3,000+ petitions a year from
the people who have had their valid complaints rejected by the spso then they could not continue to ignore the
problem. (In July 2010 Jim Martin Scottish Ombudsman had received 3793 complaints, of these, only 22 formal
investigations have been carried out, with just 17 reports being laid before parliament so there is plenty of people
out there who have been let don by the spso)

It is really easy to submit a petition. See link on how to submit a public petition

Link to Scottish Parliament Public Petitions web site

How to submit a public petition guide (link)

The only way we will get an effective spso is if everyone submits a public petition detailing the problems they have
experienced with the spso and ask the Scottish Parliament to perform a judicial review of their complaints about
the spso. Please help make Scotland a fairer and better place to live by making the spso a just and effective
organisation which holds the authorities to account and ensures that the public are getting the services they
"Our sense is that SPSO is doing untold damage to individuals, families and to public
services due to incompetent investigations and discrimination. We had thought their job
was to help the public when they have been harmed, not to kick them when they are down.
In our case SPSO’s decisions and statements completely opposed the facts and were
demonstrably false. Faced with the evidence, they perform contortions of logic, shift
goalposts, change the conversation and believe it is their right to ignore evidence that
contradicts their statements and supports the complaint. They dismissed the law, saying
the authority was free to breach it if they chose to. We experienced overt bias towards the
authority being complained about, who we could prove were lying. Regardless, SPSO
repeated their story.

"A waste of public money"

"This seems set up to drag their heals to protect public services than actually help the

"Really terrible. They're just a buffer for civil service complaints, they dont act on anything
even when you have indisputable proof. They turn a blind eye"

"Very bad; nothing but a whitewash. It is no wonder services are declining when this is all
that the public have to protect them.... the Scottish people deserve better."

"An absolute waste of public money. Totally powerless and toothless. They are nothing
more than a smoke screen to run the complainant down to the point where they give up. It
seems the best outcome that can be achieved is a mealy mouthed apology.
Whatever this department costs annually could be an instant budgetary saving by closing
it down. It would not be missed."

The Old web site is detailed below.