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SCOTTISH LABOUR hit out at a “rotten culture of secrecy” today after it was revealed that the Scottish government honours less than a third of freedom of information (FoI) requests in full and on time.
The information, ironically released under FoI, showed that in 2023 the government received 4,459 requests for information but that only 1,434 resulted in full disclosure within the statutory 20-day time limit.
The revelation that as many as 67.8 per cent of all FoI requests had been refused, been responded to late or ended in redacted information being supplied comes a little over a week after the Scottish information commissioner, the independent public official responsible for promoting and enforcing FoI law, launched an inquiry into the use of “informal messaging” during the Covid-19 crisis.
The inquiry is the latest in a series of skirmishes between the Scottish government and the commissioner in recent years.
In December, the government failed in its attempts at the Court of Session to defy the commissioner and withhold information gathered during an inquiry that cleared former first minister Nicola Sturgeon of ministerial misconduct but produced a heavily redacted report, much to the chagrin of its author, senior Irish lawyer James Hamilton.
Scottish Labour’s deputy leader Dame Jackie Baillie said: “Once again the SNP is treating the public with contempt and attempting to stifle scrutiny.
“Time and time again we see the SNP’s disregard for transparency on display, from their woeful record on FoIs to the shameful destruction of evidence during the Covid pandemic.
“Scotland deserves better than [the] rotten culture of secrecy and cover-up this SNP government has created.”
For socialist MSP Katy Clark, who recently won support won cross-party support to take forward her Freedom of Information Reform (Scotland) Bill, the data only confirmed the need for reform.
She told the Star: “My member’s Bill is based on recommendations of successive information commissioners, a Scottish Parliament committee inquiry and report, a consultation by the Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland and my own formal Scottish Parliament consultation for my member’s Bill.
“Among other reforms, it proposes a proactive duty to publish information and extending FoI to all bodies who provide public services.
“A founding principle of the Scottish Parliament was transparency, but a culture of secrecy and attempting to conceal information has developed in the Scottish government.
“It is increasingly clear that reform is needed to FoI in Scotland.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said:“Scotland has the most open and far-reaching Freedom of Information legislation in the UK and the Scottish Government remains committed to our obligations under the Act to ensure openness and transparency.”
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