Analysis: Transparency decisions around care homes embarrassing for Scottish Government

Recent rulings around publishing Covid-19 death data by individual care homes should see the Scottish Government ashamed of how it has approached transparency during the pandemic.

Nicola Sturgeon claimed she 'welcomed' additional transparency around Covid-19.

Both the Care Inspectorate and the National Records of Scotland (NRS) were slapped on the wrist by the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) for breaching Freedom of Information law in the past fortnight.

The data requested, how Covid-19 impacted individual care homes, has now been published in full by three organisations, including the Crown Office.

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Data covering hospital deaths and where they occurred was also made public yesterday by the NRS following the SIC’s decision.

Given the significant public interest around care home deaths during the pandemic, the decision and subsequent U-turns by the NRS and the Care Inspectorate is embarrassing for the Scottish Government.

While neither is controlled by ministers directly, there is a serious question about whether the institutional secrecy that permeates the Scottish Government from the top down is sustainable or desirable.

In what world, especially a National Care Service, left-leaning SNP world, is it anything but shameful to be prioritising the interests of commercial companies ahead of transparency?

It is not the first time, and it is surely not the last, where the Scottish Government have appeared happy for financial interests to take precedent over honesty and transparency.

Nicola Sturgeon suggested she welcomed the data’s publication, but she and her government made no attempts to push for this information to be made publicly available at any point during the pandemic, at least not openly.

Instead the government’s approach to transparency appears to be to stall, stonewall requests and obfuscate data and information released in the hopes the maze becomes unnavigable.

It is laughable to suggest the Scottish Government has the “most open and transparent” FoI regime in the UK and it must improve and be strengthened over the next Parliament.

People are now able to check whether the care home caring for their loved one suffered from Covid-19 or not and ask legitimate questions in response.

That is only possible due to a joint effort from journalists at The Scotsman, The Herald, DC Thomson and STV, which led to the change of direction.

It is a victory for transparency and scrutiny and a victory for bereaved families who can now start to get answers.

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