SNP ministers have been accused of presiding over a “rotten culture of secrecy” after figures revealed only one third of freedom of information responses by the Scottish Government were issues in full and on time.

Statistics obtained by Scottish Labour shows that in 2023, the Scottish Government received 4,459 freedom of information requests.

But just 1,434 of these received a full response within the legal timescales – meaning more than % of FoIs were either late, refused or redacted.

The Scottish Government has received criticism for its handling of FoI requests during the Covid pandemic – with the Scottish Information Commissioner raising a “level 3” intervention, warning the evidence provided to the UK inquiry “raises significant practice concerns”.

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In launching this intervention, the Scottish Information Commissioner, David Hamilton, said: "The evidence disclosed during Module 2A if the UK Covid -19 Inquiry over the last few weeks raises significant practice concerns which warrant further investigation by my office.

"The failure to retain or even record a complete set of the decision-making processes has not only deprived the Inquiry of information but also frustrated the public's right to request information and generally undermined the spirit of freedom of information.”

He added: "It is critical that public officials retain information which allows the public to understand how decisions are reached, for both record keeping requirements and to maintain public confidence. Understanding how decisions are reached is how public trust in decisions are secured and lessons learned for the future.”

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Mr Hamilton said that the evidence given to the UK Covid Inquiry showed “the use of informal communication channels present risks to transparency and accountability within government”.

He said: “My intervention will review current practices as well as identifying actions to be taken to ensure improvements are made in relation to how officials and Ministers use and retain informal communications in future."

Scottish Labour has accused SNP ministers of presiding over a “rotten culture of secrecy and cover-up”.

Scottish Labour deputy leader, Jackie Baillie, said: “Once again the SNP is treating the public with contempt and attempting to stifle scrutiny.

The Herald: Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie BallieScottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Ballie (Image: PA)
“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.

“Scottish Labour will strengthen FOI laws and clean up Holyrood by bolstering government accountability and oversight.”

SNP Minister for Parliamentary Business George Adam said: “The Scottish Government is currently responding to 97% of FOI requests within the statutory deadline, despite an increase of 66% in requests since 2019, to over 5,000 requests in 2023.  

"Inevitably, it is sometimes necessary for organisations’ responses to apply the exemptions – as Parliament agreed when passing the legislation, for example to withhold personal data such as names.

“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.”