Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie is rightly taking the fight to the SNP on Freedom of Information.
It is imperative that those in positions of power demonstrate how their decisions are made especially after an autumn which saw the Scottish Government behave appallingly over whether or not they had asked for legal advice about the position of a newly independent Scotland within the EU.
Over the years I have seen all sorts of decisions made on whims or for populist short term gain at the expense of the longer term good of the public.
When the Scottish Parliament was set up Jim Wallace, as Justice Minister, piloted through the most comprehensive FOI legislation in British history. This meant that the actions of ministers at Holyrood and those of us in local government were open to closer scrutiny than ever before.
Contrast this with what happened at a UK level. Tony Blair now rails against the muted FOI act his government introduced claiming it was one of the worst things he did in power.
Noting that the worst thing he actually did was sanction the invasion of Iraq and mislead the British public over whether Saddam had WMD then i am not surprised he wanted to to hide his actions away from wider public scrutiny.
In these times when all sorts of people make wild speculation about the existential threat to the Liberal Democrats we would do well to recall the words of an old Tory.
“News is what someone, somewhere wants to suppress, everything else is just advertising.”
according to Press Baron Lord Northcliff in 1914.
If the Liberal Democrats didn't exist to promote open government and to protect our traditional freedoms we would have to invent them.
*RENNIE: FREEDOM OF INFORMATION BILL IS FIRST TEST OF WHETHER SNP
HAS LISTENED TO CONCERNS*
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie
MSP has urged the SNP to
begin 2013 with a fresh commitment to open
government. Speaking ahead of
the Stage 3 debate on the Freedom of
Information (Amendment) (Scotland)
Bill, Mr Rennie has called on Deputy First
Minister Nicola Sturgeon to
support the introduction of a purpose clause to
The purpose clause would plainly set out how the bill could be
expand the public’s right to access information about bodies which
the public pound. It requires governments to increase progressively
availability of information held by Scottish public authorities. This is
amendment the Scottish Liberal Democrats will be supporting in the
Speaking ahead of the debate, Mr Rennie
“2012 saw the SNP throw away any credibility it had for
and transparently. While Alex Salmond talked of a modern,
his government was drawing the blinds and double locking
the doors. The
Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) bill is the
first test of
whether the SNP have been listening to concerns about their
“When the parliament has its final
debate on the bill, I will be urging
Nicola Sturgeon to support the
introduction of a purpose clause. This
would, in very plain terms, require
any Scottish government to take the
steps needed to improve the public’s
access to information. It would
require bodies to proactively release
information rather than wait for
someone to ask.
“As more local
authorities deliver their services through arms’ length
share the concerns of the Information Commissioner that
citizen’s rights will
continue to be eroded if access to information is not
Sturgeon has admitted Freedom of Information coverage has
been eroded since
the act was enacted so now she needs to act.
“We also need a
commitment to expand, by the end of the year, the range of
bodies covered by
FOI law to include bodies that spend public money. The
SNP could then begin
the year with a fresh commitment to open government.
misleading Scotland about the existence of legal advice on an
Scotland’s position in the EU, to hiding cuts to college
budgets, people I
meet across Scotland have been appalled with the SNP’s
dislike for openness.
Only this week we’ve learnt that now the ministerial
code will be changed to
provide clarity around what ministers can and
cannot say about legal
“The Scottish Parliament was founded on the tenets of
openness. Under the
SNP, those foundations are beginning to crumble. I will
be urging Nicola
Sturgeon to demonstrate that her government has listened to
supporting a move for clarity in the Freedom of Information