THE Scottish Government and one of its key agencies have been heavily criticised by the Information Commissioner and ordered to release details about the Aberdeen City Garden project, after a 10-month freedom of information case fought by the Sunday Herald.

The information concerns a programme of pilot projects set up by the Government last year using a US public-private funding model called tax increment financing (TIF). Having received 16 applications, the Government announced last September that it would be taking forward projects in Aberdeen, Oban, Falkirk and Methil.

It reached this decision after each project was ranked for economic viability by the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT). The Sunday Herald asked to see the rankings, amid speculation that the SFT had ranked the Aberdeen project below certain applications that were later rejected for political reasons.

When the SFT and Government both refused to release the information, the matter was considered under appeal by the Information Commissioner Rosemary Agnew who found both bodies were wrong to withhold the information.

The Government was also told it had failed to comply with its duty to give advice about the information it held, despite being asked to do so, and for being 23 days late with its appeal decision.

The Scottish Government and SFT have been given until October 22 to decide whether to release the information or appeal to the Court of Session.