SE: Secret Executive? (posted 9th September 2006) One of successes of the new system of governance in Scotland is the Scottish Information Commissioner. But success here signals major failures of transparency and accountability in the Scottish Executive (SE) itself. As of today there have been 255 decisions listed on the Commissioner's website. It was a matter of a few minutes scrolling down the clearly presented web pages here to extract the statistics on successsful versus failed appeals against the SE. First, what should we expect? The SE are the professionals here in terms of information management and statutory responsibilities, if they were doing their job properly they should be winning these appeals hands down against appellants who are, for the most part, simply private individuals.
The figures are remarkable. Of the 37 decisions in 2005-06 which have involved appeals against the SE, the case was found against the SE totally or partially in 29 out of the 37 cases (14 totally and 17 partially found against the SE). Even more remarkably, there seems to have been no indication of a learning curve effect on the part of the SE here, its success rate is actually going down (of the 19 decisions involving the SE so far in 2006, it won only 2, losing partially 9 times and completely 8 times). This is a terrible indictment of so-called "open government" because it raises the question of how much information is being unreasonably withheld from the public that is not the subject of appeals to the Information Commissioner. The answer to these questions lies not in further burdens on the Information Commissioner but in wholesale reform of the administrative arm of Scottish government.
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