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Campaigner blasts Scottish government over FoI ‘screening’

Neil FindlayA Freedom of Information campaigner has called for the Scottish government to be kicked out of an international body which “promotes transparency”.

Earlier this month 23 Scottish journalists called for a review of the way Holyrood deals with FoI requests, amid claims they are routinely being screened for potential political damage by special advisers.

Now an opposition politician wants the Open Government Partnership to investigate claims ministers deliberately withheld public information.

Labour MSP Neil Findlay will now write to OGP officials asking them to investigate whether the SNP-run Scottish government should be allowed to participate in the body.

He told the Sunday Herald: “I am writing to the Open Government Partnership steering group chairs to ask them to immediately investigate the conduct of the Scottish government and consider whether given their admission of guilt they can continue participating in this project.”

In his letter to the OGP, Mr Findlay added: “I write to ask that you action Open Government Partnership’s (OGP) independent reporting mechanism team to investigate the conduct of the Scottish government with respect to obstructing parliamentarians, journalists and other members of civil society from carrying out their work of holding it to account by withholding information requested.”

The previous letter from the journalists also claimed requests are being blocked or refused for tenuous reasons, and repeatedly delayed beyond the 20 working day deadline “without clear justification or warning”.

Those to sign the letter, addressed to the panel which selects the Scottish Information Commissioner, include journalists from Glasgow-based dailies The Herald, Sunday Herald and Daily Record, and Dundee daily The Courier.

A spokesperson for Joe FitzPatrick, the Minister for Parliamentary Business, said: “This is a ridiculous suggestion from Neil Findlay – and exposes his posturing for the lame personal vendetta it is, rather than a serious attempt to improve access to information or transparency.”

A spokesman for the OGP said: “Our independent reporting mechanism researcher in Scotland has the mandate to conduct the review of the Scottish government’s commitments to OGP.”