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SNP's "secrecy workshops" a step too far

July 31, 2012 11:35 AM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP has written to the Scottish Information Commissioner to find out if the SNP government sought her advice when setting up their "training courses in secrecy" for civil servants.

Mr Rennie asked for information on the extent of the Commissioner's involvement in preparing the workshops, which have a specific focus independence-related FOI requests.

Commenting, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP said:

"This SNP government is so intent on surrounding itself with "Yes" men that it is prepared to bend and stretch Freedom of Information laws to suit their independence agenda. I've always had serious concerns about their dislike of openness but training courses in secrecy for civil servants takes it to a new level.

"I've written to the Scottish Information Commissioner to find out if the SNP government have sought her advice for these workshops. After major problems at Ayrshire and Arran NHS, covering up the extent of tax dodging amongst civil servants, hiding information on independence and subsequently being repeatedly reprimanded by the information commissioner, I find it hard to trust any Scottish Government produced Freedom of Information workshop - for civil servants or otherwise.

"The SNP government must consult with the Scottish Information Commissioner on their workshops. This referendum is of huge importance to Scotland, so the civil service must have the clearest guidelines which allow them to work in a manner which observes the fullest scope of the law.

"The driving motivation behind FOI legislation was transparency and open government. These workshops are clearly intended to provide civil servants with skills in the dark arts akin to former Soviet KGB agents.

"The independence referendum will be one of the biggest decisions we make in our lifetime. It's time the SNP took this debate seriously and stopped trying to spin their way out of holes in their independence plans."