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Visit Scotland | Alba

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1. Introduction

This policy applies to all employees and officers of the organisation. It is important to the business that any fraud, misconduct or wrongdoing by employees or officers of the organisation is reported and properly dealt with. The organisation therefore encourages all individuals to raise any concerns that they may have about the conduct of others in the business, or the way in which the business is run as soon as possible. All concerns will be taken seriously and investigated as appropriate. Staff should be able to raise genuine concerns without fear of reprisals, even if they turn out to be mistaken. This policy sets out the way in which individuals may raise any concerns that they have and how those concerns will be dealt with.

2. Purpose and scope

The policy applies to all workers. Workers are defined as:

  • employees of VisitScotland (including Board members)
  • contractors, voluntary staff working for VisitScotland and agency staff

The policy references ‘the law’. Applicable items of legislation are:

  • the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA)
  • the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998
  • the Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) (Amendment) Order 2018 (Statutory Instrument 2018 No.795).
  • the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act (ERRA) 2013

The law provides protection for workers who raise legitimate concerns about specified matters. These are called "qualifying disclosures". A qualifying disclosure is one made in the public interest by an worker who has a reasonable belief that:

  • a criminal offence;
  • a miscarriage of justice;
  • an act creating risk to health and safety;
  • an act causing damage to the environment;
  • a breach of any other legal obligation; or
  • deliberate concealment of any of the above;

is being, has been, or is likely to be, committed.

Whistleblowing may also include disclosure of information which relates to:

  • bribery (under VisitScotland’s Anti-bribery and Corruption policy);
  • facilitating tax evasion (contrary to VisitScotland’s Anti-facilitation of Tax Evasion policy);
  • financial fraud or mismanagement;
  • breach of VisitScotland’s internal policies and procedures;
  • conduct likely to damage VisitScotland’s reputation; or
  • unauthorised disclosure of confidential information.

It is not necessary for the worker to have proof that such an act is being, has been, or is likely to be, committed - a concern is enough. The worker has no responsibility for investigating the matter - it is the organisation's responsibility to ensure that an investigation takes place.

A worker who makes a disclosure has the right not to be dismissed, subjected to any other detriment, or victimised because they have made a disclosure.

The organisation encourages workers to raise their concerns under this procedure in the first instance. If a worker is not sure whether to raise a concern, they should discuss the issue with their line manager or contact [redacted], Head of Human Resources.

This policy should not be used for complaints relating to your own personal circumstances, such as the way you have been treated at work. If worker is concerned that their own contract has been, or is likely to be, broken, they should refer to the VisitScotland Grievance policy.

​​​​​​​3. Principles

Everyone should be aware of the importance of preventing and eliminating wrongdoing at work. Workers should be watchful for illegal or unethical conduct and report anything of that nature that they become aware of.

Any matter raised under this procedure will be investigated thoroughly and promptly and the outcome of the investigation reported back to the worker who raised the issue.

No worker will be victimised for raising a matter under this procedure. This means that the continued employment and opportunities for future promotion or training of the worker will not be prejudiced because they have raised a legitimate concern.

Victimisation of a worker for raising a qualified disclosure will be a disciplinary offence.

If misconduct is discovered because of any investigation under this procedure the organisation's Disciplinary procedure will be used, in addition to any appropriate external measures.

Maliciously making a false allegation is a disciplinary offence.

An instruction to cover up wrongdoing is itself a disciplinary offence. If told not to raise or pursue any concern, even by a person in authority such as a manager, workers should not agree to remain silent, they should report it.  If a member of staff has concerns they should speak to a member of the HR team or a member of the PCS union staff group.

4. Confidentiality and anonymity

This policy encourages you to put your name to your allegation whenever possible. If you do not tell us who you are it may be more difficult for us to investigate your concern, protect your position or to give you feedback. It is also more difficult to establish whether any allegations are credible. However, if you want to raise your concern confidentially, we will make every effort to keep your identity secret. If it is necessary for anyone investigating your concern to know your identity, we will discuss this with you.

If disciplinary or other proceedings follow the investigation, it may not be possible to act because of your disclosure without your help, so you may be asked to come forward as a witness. If you agree to this, you will be offered advice and support. Whistle-blowers who are concerned about possible reprisals if their identity is revealed should come forward to [redacted], Head of Human Resources and appropriate measures can then be taken to preserve confidentiality. If you are in any doubt you can seek advice from Protect, the independent whistleblowing charity, who offer a confidential helpline, www.protect-advice.org.uk, telephone 020 3117 2520.

5. The process

5.1    Who should you raise your concern with?

In the first instance, and unless the worker reasonably believes their line manager to be involved in the wrongdoing, any concerns should be raised with the workers line manager. If they believe the line manager to be involved, or for any reason do not wish to approach their line manager, then the worker should notify the next most senior member of staff or their Head of Department.

If exceptionally, the concern is raised about your Director then you should raise your concern with the Chief Executive. If exceptionally, the concern is raised about the Chief Executive then the concern should be raised with the Chairman. Any approach will be treated with the strictest confidence and the worker's identity will not be disclosed without their prior consent.

5.2    How to raise a concern

You may raise your concern by telephone, in person or in writing – a whistleblowing report form can be found in appendix two. The earlier you express your concern, the easier it is to act. You should provide the following:

  • the nature of your concern and why you believe it to be true
  • the background and history of the concern (including any relevant dates)

You may wish to consider discussing your concern with a work colleague or trade union representative. They can accompany you to any meetings or be included in any telephone conversations.

5.3    What will VisitScotland do?

When a line manager or appropriate manager is notified of potential wrongdoing, the line manager or appropriate manager will, within ten working days of the concern being raised, write to you to acknowledge the concern has been received. We will indicate how VisitScotland proposes to deal with the matter and supply you with any information on support that is available to you. If an investigation is to take place you will be informed.

When investigating a concern, the manager appointed as lead investigator may have to speak to you on one or more than one occasion to gather relevant facts. If this is the case, you will be invited into a meeting to discuss the concern and clarify information about it. HR will be present at these meetings and workers will be advised that they have the right to be accompanied by either a trade union representative or a work colleague. Your companion must respect the confidentiality of your disclosure and any subsequent investigation. Depending upon the nature of the concern this meeting can be arranged away from your workplace.

The workers statement will be considered, and they will be asked to comment on any additional evidence obtained. The line manager (or the person who carries out the investigation) will then report their findings in writing to the Head of HR and Director of Corporate Services, who will take any necessary action. This action may include following anti-bribery or fraud processes if appropriate and/or reporting the matter to any appropriate government department or regulatory agency. If disciplinary action is required, the line manager (or the person who carried out the investigation) will take this matter forward with the HR Department and the Disciplinary policy and process will be applied.

We will aim to keep you informed of the progress of the investigation and its likely timescale. However, sometimes the need for confidentiality may prevent us giving you specific details on the investigation or any disciplinary action taken as a result.

On conclusion of any investigation, the worker will receive an outcome letter summarising what the organisation has done, or proposes to do, about it. If no action is to be taken, the reason for this will be explained. You should treat any information about the investigation and the outcome letter as confidential.

5.4    What happens if I do not feel the matter has been dealt with appropriately?

If the worker is concerned that their line manager has failed to instigate a disclosure or has failed to take the matter seriously, they should inform a senior member of staff or Head of Department who will arrange for another manager to review the investigation carried out, make any necessary enquiries and compile a report in writing to the Head of HR and Director of Corporate Services as outlined above.

If, on conclusion the worker reasonably believes that the appropriate action has not been taken, they should report the matter to the proper authority. We strongly encourage you to seek advice before reporting a concern to anyone external. The independent whistleblowing charity, Protect, operates a confidential helpline. They also have a list of prescribed regulators for reporting certain types of concern. These include:

  • HM Revenue & Customs;
  • the Financial Conduct Authority (formerly the Financial Services Authority);
  • the Competition and Markets Authority;
  • the Health and Safety Executive;
  • the Environment Agency;
  • the Independent Office for Police Conduct; and
  • the Serious Fraud Office.
  • Audit Scotland

Further information can also be found on prescribed regulators on the UK Government website.

Whistleblowing concerns usually relate to the conduct of our staff, but they may sometimes relate to the actions of a third party, such as a supplier. In some circumstances the law will protect you if you raise the matter with the third party directly. However, we encourage you to report such concerns internally first. You should contact your line manager or [redacted], Head of Procurement for guidance.

6. Relationship to other VisitScotland policies

7. Monitoring and review

This policy will be reviewed annually. All Human Resources policies, when updated, are shared with the PCS staff union group for comment. VisitScotland policies are monitored and reviewed by the VisitScotland Policy, Regulation and Legislation Steering Group. Dependent upon decision of the Group, policies may be sent to Leadership Group, the Audit & Risk Committee and/or VisitScotland Board for final approval.

The whistleblowing policy will be sent to the following groups for comment and/or approval.

  1. PCS VisitScotland representative group – for information/comment
  1. VisitScotland Policy, Regulation and Legislation Steering Group – approval stage 1
  2. VisitScotland Leadership Group – approval stage 2
  3. VisitScotland Board – final approval

All VisitScotland policies will be published on the staff hub which ensures they are accessible to all staff.

Training will be provided to senior staff (Heads of Department and the Leadership Group) to ensure they understand their role in responding to, and acting upon, Whistleblowing. Training for all employees is available via LinkedIn Learning.

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