Censorship in Scotland

Something very disturbing is happening in Scotland. At one time it was a beacon for transparent and democratic government. Kevin Dunion, the Scottish Information Commissioner, made bold rulings on the people’s right to know including a decision that all Members of the Scottish Parliament would have to disclose their expenses. It was this decision that I used as a legal precedent in my own case against Westminster MPs.

Now it seems some Scottish politicians are regressing. The SNP Government is going to court to try and strip the Scottish Information Commissioner of his power. Ministers, including First Minister Alex Salmond, want the Court of Session to rule that the Commissioner doesn’t have the right to ask the Government for information as part of his FOI investigations. This comes after Mr Dunion launched a freedom of information probe after ministers turned down a request to see government files. When the Government refused to provide the files, the Commissioner issued an “information notice” against ministers, demanding they provide more details.

As the Sunday Herald reports:

Since he was appointed as Scotland’s first Information Commissioner, Mr Dunion and his staff have adjudicated on hundreds of appeal cases where people were unhappy with responses from public bodies to FoI requests.

As a routine part of the process, the Commissioner and his staff ask to see what information has been withheld and then decide whether the public body made the right decision.

The Government’s challenge centres on whether the Commissioner has the power to make such requests or, if necessary, order access using an Information Notice. The Government is also arguing that the original FoI question at the heart of the case is invalid as it requests documents, not information.

Mr Dunion told the Sunday Herald: “The appeal relates to what I can ask for as part of an investigation. That is what is being challenged by the Government.”

The cases include requests for correspondence between Mr Salmond and SNP donor Brian Souter, as well as between the First Minister and tycoon Sir Angus Grossart, government adviser George Mathewson and pop star Sandi Thom.

I’ve a lot of time for Kevin Dunion. I’ve met him on several occasions and he strikes me as the sort of regulator who actually takes his role of protecting the public interest seriously. He is one of the few who is willing to stand up for what is right regardless of political pressure or powerful interests. He should be lauded, not harassed. What can the people of Scotland make of their elected leaders’ attack on such a true man of the people? I know if I was Scottish I’d be pretty angry.

8 Responses to “Censorship in Scotland”

  1. PoliticiansAreCorrupt says:

    Hi Heather,

    Just watched you on BBC HardTalk; you’re awesome, Brains ‘n beauty :))

    Regarding your Scottish silencing article, have you ever thought about investigating the dubious release of Lockerbie bomber Abdul Ali al-Megrahi?

    He was meant to have cancer but was released due to Blair’s ‘deal in the desert’ with Libya, paving the way for £450Million explorative oil mining.

    I thought g’ments don’t ‘negotiate’ with terrorists, but if there’s black gold you can bet there’s dirty back-room deals with politicians.

    It would be fantastic if you did a FoI regarding his highly suspicious release.

    Thanks for your great work Heather; your tenacity is exemplary.

    Frustrated citizen of the UK

  2. chris says:

    Dear “Frustrated..”

    We can ALL use the FOI act you know. In fact, I can recommend a good book that shows you how! 😉

  3. Al Jahom says:

    It’s not such a leap.

    Everyone in Scotland is already angry. And drunk. :o)

  4. Craig McGill says:

    Dear Frustrated, if investigating Lockerbie, there’s more to look into than the release. There’s the question of if he should have been jailed at all or if anyone on the USS Vincennes ever spoke of their error being the lead-in to the Lockerbie bombing.

  5. It would appear they let a tiger loose and now wish to kill it as it cannot be tamed and continues to cause too much harm to the few.

  6. Just is fowl says:

    My house and life is being destroyed by Scottish Water and Argyll and Bute council…. An old boy network said the Halifax insurance co. I’ve sued Golds in Glasgow Sheriff Court and I am public enemy no.1. for thinking about justice. I’ve just done an FOI and I’ve been amazed at the mis information collated over the past 10 years all being destorted for an agenda to stitch me up. Scottish Water has lost all the surveys and re written history. They are good at that but they cannot seem to do a proper job in terms of the Sewage Scotland Act which is what they should be doing… It’s a joke… The Council are wrapped up in this and have broken every rule in the book… I’m the bady dangerous and threatening.

    These old boys should be jailed but they get public money to destroy what and who they like.

    Freemasons are the enemy within… They take extra judicial oaths for there buddies and are what is wrong in public life. They are the law and that’s about the size of it… Deliberate mistakes = freemasons.

  7. Karen says:

    Al jahom, that is a little rude! That aside, are the Freemasons subject to FOI legislation? Heather, I have just read silent state. Brilliant. I was very curious to know what you thought about the coalition government’s moves to scrap some of the databases you cite. I note your optimism. I wonder if the similarities with your manifesto are ideological or astute PR? The Scottish moves you draw our attention to are disappointing. I will watch that with interest and wonder what the motivation is. Mind you, we have only one Tory Mp and no mandate for Tory rule and then there’s our football team! Disapointment is in our blood 🙂

  8. James says:

    I am currently writing a disseration about freedom of information and open government in Scotland. Could someone provide some more details on this case, perhaps the particular case which was appealed?


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