A RESPECTED transparency campaigner has been appointed to lead the watchdog that adjudicates on standards disputes involving councillors.

Kevin Dunion, former head of the body that enforced freedom of information legislation, is to be the new convener of the Standards Commission.

Dunion was the first Scottish Information Commissioner and his team handled FOI battles between applicants and public bodies. He issued a series of landmark judgments on issues ranging from MSP expenses, surgical mortality rates in hospitals and private finance initiative contracts.

A former chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, he was unpopular with some politicians who believed he went too far in backing disclosures of information.

Members of Holyrood’s governing Corporate Body met earlier this month to consider Dunion as the next convener of the Standards Commission, an independent body set up to promote the codes of conduct for councillors and individuals appointed to serve on public bodies.

Although complaints about breaches of the codes are investigated by a separate watchdog, the Commission’s role is to review all cases where a breach has been determined. In these circumstances, the Commission will order further investigations, direct that a hearing takes place, or do neither.

Dunion and he will become the new convener on February 1.

He told this newspaper he was “very pleased” to be appointed and said: “I’m interested in maintaining high standards in public life, whether or not it is access to information or, in this case, maintaining the codes of conduct.

“The breaches we deal with are things like conflicts of interest, breaches of confidentiality and intrusion into operational matters which are the responsibility of staff.

He added: “What I want to do is enforce the code of conduct and make sure there is a sanction if a breach has been found. Secondly, we have got a job to do in issuing guidance and promoting the codes.”

Dunion also said his new role could involve calling for change to the codes if he felt reform was required.