Morning briefing: SNP ‘broke FoI laws’ by refusing to reveal whether EU advise was sought for independent Scotland

First Minister Alex Salmond. Picture: Jane Barlow
First Minister Alex Salmond. Picture: Jane Barlow
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FIRST Minister Alex Salmond has been ordered to reveal if he has received legal advice on whether an independent Scotland could join the European Union.

Scotland’s Information Commissioner ruled that Scottish ministers were wrong to impose the equivalent of a super-injunction by refusing to say whether they had such advice.

In a detailed judgment, Rosemary Agnew said the Scottish Government had broken Freedom of Information (FoI) laws and gave it six weeks to confirm or deny the existence of the material.

The move is an embarrassment for Mr Salmond and SNP ministers who have argued it is “not in the public interest” to say what their legal advice was, or even if they have had any.

The SNP claims an independent Scotland would have automatic membership of the EU — and the UK’s opt-out from the single currency — because both Scotland and the rest of the UK would count as “successor states” and therefore entitled to membership.

But others, including some constitutional experts, say only the remaining part of the UK would be treated as the successor state and an independent Scotland would have to re-apply.

The Information Commissioner’s ruling comes more than a year after Labour MEP Catherine Stihler first asked ministers for a copy of their legal advice regarding the status of Scotland within the EU in the event of separation.

Ms Stihler said: “This is a landmark judgment, and I am absolutely delighted.”

New enclosure for Edinburgh Zoo penguins

PLANS for a new £750,000 enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo to house the Capital’s famous penguin colony were unveiled today. In March, the zoo’s popular penguin parade attraction had to be suspended and two-thirds of the birds were farmed out to other zoos, after leaks were found in their pool.

But The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) today launched a campaign to raise funds for a new enclosure, which will see water slides and a beach built for the penguins.

It is also hoped that there will be a better view for visitors at the penguins’ new home.

Following the discovery of the leak, the 160-bird colony had to be split up, with some being sent to Belfast, Denmark and England, although some stayed in the Capital.

Until its closure, when water was allowed to drain naturally from the pool for five weeks, the daily penguin parade

was one of the most popular attractions at the zoo. Edinburgh Zoo had the largest outdoor penguin pool in the world.

Over the past century Edinburgh Zoo has built an international reputation for its successful penguin breeding programme.

Tram spin doctors pocket £1m in public money

SPIN doctors hired for the Edinburgh tram project have been paid more than £1 million in public cash.

Four PR firms have been paid £1.1m since 2006 despite the council having its own in-house communication team and trams PR department.

Much of the cash was paid to PR firms specialising in “crisis management” as the controversial project was hit with a series of blunders and soaring costs. The biggest recipients were Media House who received £588,000.

Labour Lothians MSP Kezia Dugdale said: “With the terrible publicity for the trams, I think a refund is in order. This adds to the case for a public inquiry to get to the bottom of what went so badly wrong.”

Woman burned in Canonmills fire

A WOMAN suffered burns in a blaze at a flat in Canonmills.

The 19-year-old sustained burns to her hands when a fire broke out in a cupboard of the second-floor flat in Rodney Street at around 7.10pm.

Firefighters used a hydraulic lift to douse the flames from the street while crew members also entered the property with breathing kits.

John W Wallace, 62, an actor and local resident who saw the drama unfold, said: “I noticed a girl in a leather jacket in some distress in the fire engine as she was getting her hand bandaged.”