Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Shameless Hypocrisy (2)



Here's a post from the blog site archive which captures the shameless behaviour of South Lanarkshire Council over Scotland's Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation.

So far as I know the Scottish Labour party has yet to say anything critical about the behaviour of this Labour-led council - yet it has plenty to say about FOI when it comes to other people and other organisations.

Maybe South Lanarkshire's MSPs will have something to say on the matter - let's see what happens in the weeks ahead.   

Actions and Words (7 May 2012)

The Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) contacted me last Thursday to say that South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) intends to lodge an appeal - over the recent Freedom of Information (FOI) case at the Court of Session.

The one in which three senior Scottish judges decided - unanimously - that South Lanarkshire Council should be required to publish pay information regarding the pay of male dominated council jobs.

Now in my opinion this is a scandalous state of affairs, a cynical abuse of the FOI process - and a terrible waste of public money into the bargain.

But the news is very interesting as well - because last Thursday the council was operating without political oversight or control - given that the local elections were taking place that same day and resulted in no single party having a majority.

So how could such an important decision be taken by council officials acting on their own - without proper debate and public scrutiny - which is what local democracy and local government is all about?

For the past five years South Lanarkshire has been a Labour-run council courtesy of Tory support - what will happen in future has yet to be decided and certainly wasn't decided by Thursday 3 May 2102.

So what's going on - you might be entitled to ask yourself?

Within the past 12 months two Scottish Labour leaders - Iain Gray and Johann Lamont - have been quick to criticise the Scottish Government over its failure to abide by an adjudicated decision of the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC).

Yet here we have a completely out of control Labour council going even further - much further.

By thumbing its nose at not just the independent Scottish Information Commissioner, but the highest civil court in Scotland - the Court of Session.

Now if I might remind readers briefly what Lords Marnoch, Mackay and Brailsford had to say in their detailed written judgement from the Court of Session:

"We say that because, having regard to the Commissioner's findings looked at as a whole, we are satisfied that even applying the stricter test the Commissioner could only have concluded that necessity (of publishing the information) was made out. In particular, he held that the Requester's own interest coincided with a widespread public interest in the matter of gender equality and that it was important to achieve transparency on the subject of Equal Pay. No better means existed to achieve that goal than be releasing the information in question."

So while politicians bang on about their values - about the importance of openness, transparency and accountability - their actions speak much louder than their words.

Let's see what MSPs have to say on the matter - once the Scottish Parliament gets back down to business after the holiday weekend.