Guidance - Complaint Handling Procedure - Guide for Customers
NatureScot is committed to providing high-quality customer services. We value complaints and use information from them to help us improve.
If something goes wrong or you are dissatisfied with our services, please tell us. This guide describes our complaints procedure and how to make a complaint. It also tells you what you can expect from us.
What is a complaint?
NatureScot defines a complaint as being:
'An expression of dissatisfaction by one or more members of the public about NatureScot’s action or lack of action, or about the standard of service provided by or on behalf of NatureScot.'
What can I complain about?
You can complain about things like:
- delays in responding to your enquiries and requests
- failure to provide a service
- our quality of service
- our policy
- treatment by or attitude of a member of staff
- our failure to follow proper procedure
Your complaint may involve more than one service or be about someone working on our behalf.
What can't I complain about?
There are some things we can’t deal with through our complaints handling procedure. These include:
- a routine first-time request for a service
- requests for compensation
- things that are covered by a right of appeal, for example if we refuse consent for an operation on a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or as described in the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996 (as amended).
If other procedures or rights of appeal can help you resolve your concerns, we will give information and advice to help you.
Who can complain?
Anyone can make a complaint to us, including the representative of someone who is dissatisfied with our service. Please also read the section on ‘Getting help to make your complaint’.
How do I complain?
When complaining, tell us:
- your full name and contact details
- as much as you can about the complaint
- what has gone wrong
- how you want us to resolve the matter.
We are happy to receive your complaint in Gaelic.
What happens when I have complained?
We aim to resolve complaints quickly and close to where we provided the service. This could mean an on-the-spot apology and explanation if something has clearly gone wrong, and immediate action to resolve the problem.
We will always tell you who is dealing with your complaint.
Our complaints procedure has 2 stages:
Stage one – frontline resolution
Frontline resolution aims to quickly resolve straightforward complaints that require little or no investigation. We aim to do this within 5 working days.
If for any reason we aren’t able to resolve your complaint within 5 working days we will contact you to discuss the options. These may include an extension to the original timescale or, should the case be more complicated than we originally thought, undertaking a more detailed (Stage 2) investigation.
Stage two – investigation
Stage 2 deals with three types of complaint:
- not been resolved at Stage 1
- complex in nature and are immediately apparent that detailed investigation is required
- involve members of senior management
When using Stage 2 we will:
- acknowledge receipt of your complaint within 3 working days
- where appropriate, discuss your complaint with you to understand why you remain dissatisfied and what outcome you are looking for
- provide a full response within 20 working days
If the investigation is particularly complex and we need longer than 20 working days to resolve the problem we will agree a revised time limit and keep you updated on progress.
Independent external review
If, having gone through our complaints procedure, you are still dissatisfied you can appeal to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO).
The SPSO cannot normally look at:
- a complaint that has not completed our complaints procedure. You must have been informed of the outcome of your complaint, at stage 2, before raising it with the SPSO.
- events that happened, or that you became aware of, more than a year ago
- a matter that has been or is being considered in court
How long do I have to make a complaint?
Normally, you must make your complaint within 6 months of the event you want to complain about.
If you find out that you have a reason to complain after 6 months of the event, you should raise this with us as soon as possible, and within 12 months of the event you want to complaint about.
In exceptional circumstances, we may be able to accept a complaint after the time limit. If you feel that the time limit should not apply to your complaint, please tell us why.
Getting help to make your complaint
We understand that you may be unable, or reluctant, to make a complaint yourself. We accept complaints from the representative of a person who is dissatisfied with our service. We can take complaints from a friend, relative, or an advocate, if you have given them your consent to complain for you.
We are committed to making our service easy to use for all members of the community. In line with our statutory equalities duties, we will always ensure that reasonable adjustments are made to help customers access and use our services. If you have trouble putting your complaint in writing, or want this information in another language or format, such as large font, or Braille, tell us in person, contact us on 01463 725077, or email us.
We recognise there are occasions where some outside assistance is required to bring about resolution. For such occasions, we may offer to use the Scottish Mediation Network to help us reach a pragmatic solution.
We recognise that people may act out of character in times of trouble or distress. We also recognise that the reasons leading to a complaint may contribute to the way in which the issue is presented. However, there are occasions when we deem such actions to be unacceptable.
Our Unacceptable Behaviour by Customers Statement outlines the types of behaviours we deem to be unacceptable and the actions we may take.
Information on how to contact us
Online enquiries and complaints can be emailed to us.
Our main Area Offices
You can contact the SPSO:
SPSO, 99 McDonald Road, Edinburgh. EH7 4NS
SPSO, Freepost SPSO
If your complaint is about a NatureScot Board or Committee Member, you can contact:
Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland
91 Haymarket Terrace
Quick guide to our complaints procedure
We have a 2-stage complaints procedure. We will always try to deal with your complaint quickly. But if it is clear that the matter will need a detailed investigation, we will tell you and keep you updated on our progress.
Stage 1: Frontline Resolution
We will always try to resolve your complaint as quickly as possible.
If you are dissatisfied with our response, you can ask us to consider your complaint at Stage 2.
Stage 2: Investigation
We will look at your complaint at this stage if you are dissatisfied with our response at Stage 1. We also look at some complaints immediately at this stage, if it is clear that they are complex or need detailed investigation.
We will acknowledge your complaint within 3 working days. We will give you our decision as soon as possible. This will be after no more than 20 working days unless there is clearly a good reason for needing more time.
The Scottish Public Service Ombudsman
If, after receiving our final decision on your complaint, you remain dissatisfied with our decision or the way we have handled your complaint, you can ask the SPSO to consider it.
We will tell you how to do this when we send you our final decision.