There have been several accusations recently that the Scottish Government fosters a culture of secrecy.

On Saturday, our Education writer James McEnaney detailed the sorry saga of the five Freedom of Information requests he submitted in attempting to gain details of Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth’s proposed Centre of Teaching Excellence.

Read his account here 👈

On a similar theme, we reported yesterday how the Scottish Information Commissioner, David Hamilton, is to investigate the deletion of WhatsApp messages by Nicola Sturgeon and others.

Read that report here 👈

Today one of our readers rails against “the Scottish Government’s blatant attempts to side-step proper access to potentially inconvenient truths”.

Keith Howell of West Linton writes:

"Thanks to James McEnaney for providing such eye-opening revelations on the use of Freedom of Information requests. It is clear that the current Scottish Government has developed an active approach to frustrate attempts to access information that should be publicly available. This is more akin to insurance companies having departments to reject claims out of hand, rather than the transparent government that FoI legislation was intended to provide.

The SNP Minister for Parliamentary Business, George Adam, was interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland’s GMS show today. He rather glibly dismissed questions over WhatsApp message deletions and criticisms of how the Scottish Government routinely responds to FoI requests. He repeated the Nicola Sturgeon line of how he and his colleagues retain what they consider is relevant and important before deleting messages, completely ignoring the critical issue of how it should be for others, in the case of Covid, a judge and lawyers appointed to the inquiry, to decide what is relevant or not. Equally, as the minister quoted figures of the high proportion of FoI requests that are now responded to within the timescales specified under FoI rules, he failed to properly address how this was being achieved by widespread use of redaction and exemptions. As James McEnaney explained using the example of the SNP’s curious reluctance to talk about the Centre for Teaching Excellence announced by the Education Secretary at last year’s SNP conference, these redactions and exemptions can be challenged, but this further runs the clock out and often results in alternate reasons given for not providing what was asked for.

It is no wonder Scottish Information Commissioner David Hamilton finds he so often has to question the Scottish Government’s approach to dealing with information requests. It seems journalists, members of the public, or even a judge-led public inquiry are forced to have to wade through this Scottish Government's blatant attempts to side-step proper access to potentially inconvenient truths."

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