Monday, 1 February 2010

The Scottish Suppression of Information act

Kevin Dunion, our improbably handsome Scottish Information Commissioner is smarting from a severe wedgie delivered at the hands of public bodies.  After the initial hand clapping and plaudits that greeted his appointment in 2003 and subsequent successes; including MSPs expenses, mortality rates and health expenditure, Mr Dunion said in the last few days that “we now have ample evidence that as a matter of course civil servants are turning away perfectly valid information requests which are quite inexplicable.”

He went on to observe that the Scottish Government has adopted a “rather restrictive view of it and is now issuing, almost as a matter of course, refusal notices saying requests are invalid if they make reference to documents."

Just to clarify this, Kevin is smarting at the inability of the public to secure the release of information if it is contained in a document, yes a document - really... If you should make a valid request for the release of information and foolishly make mention of a "document" your request is now deemed invalid.

After a hyper-illogical FOI-emasculating ruling by the Court of Session recently which stated people had the right to information but not the documents which contained that information, the Scottish administration and public bodies are routinely denying every FOI request that makes reference to a document - electronic, hand written or blood on skin parchment, it doesn't matter - you can only request the information in obtuse and tangential ways and without reference to a document.

This insane situation presupposes that you know the answer you are looking for, and I suspect should be based on the press releases, news items and the positive spin and propaganda, rarely critical of the incumbent, that public bodies choose to make public in the first place.  Do you suppose for a second that they have something to hide?  Like the £2million paid in bonuses to Scottish Government staff in 2008-9?  Or perhaps the FOI exempt publicly owned private companies through which millions of pounds of public expenditure are unaccountably routed, such as the Edinburgh City Council owned Transport Initiatives Edinburgh, or Edinburgh Waterfront - not to mention Housing Associations and the vast estate of other ruses adopted by politicians to dilute public expenditure and accountability.

Our Information Commissioner's perineum is obviously red raw by now, so rather than reaching for the E45 and complaining Mr Dunion, what about using some of those powers you have?

Or could it be that you quite like crushed bollocks, a sore arse, the £80-85,000 per annum salary (a 10% increase on 2006), generous pension and an increasingly pointless department that costs us £1,500,000 every year?

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post Polaris. I intended to put this on my Super Seven post next week, but I think it deserves much more than that.

    Give me a while to think about how to post about it and I hope others take it up too.