SNP ministers have announced plans to improve their “transparency and openness” after they were caught operating a secret twin-track freedom of information regime.

Scotland’s information watchdog found evidence the Scottish Government was making it tougher for journalists, MSPs and political researchers to receive documents.

They were “expressly made subject to a different process for clearance than other requester groups”, the Scottish Information Commissioner said.

A new “action plan” drawn up by the Government outlines steps to improve the way it handles FoI requests, including enhanced staff training and a more streamlined clearance process.

Ministers said the proposals would build on the “current above-target performance of answering 93 per cent of requests on time so far this year”.

Parliamentary business minister Graeme Dey said: “This action plan builds on our improving performance in responding to FoIs and ensures we get requests on the right track from the outset and provide quality responses as promptly as possible.”

But Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott said the question journalists and MSPs want answered is “whether our requests for information will be fairly dealt with in the future”.

He said: “The SNP do not like answering difficult questions so time and time again, MSPs have to resort to FoI as obfuscation is taken to new levels by our government. We then found that SNP political advisors, paid for by the taxpayer, were neutering these answers.

“All this must be swept away. That will be the acid test of whether this action plan works. Perhaps we should all begin by using FoI to discover what we can about the process leading up to the publication of the action plan.”