Readers' Letters: SNP’s love of secrecy is transparently obvious

How gracious of the First Minister. She will “consider” complying with an order from the Information Commissioner to respond to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request (Scotsman, May 3)! What is the notch above “breathtaking” to get anywhere near to describing the arrogance of this SNP government?

FOI legislation was brought in – not, needless to say, by the SNP – to ensure that the Scottish electorate had the right to access information which is in the public interest. Under the SNP, FOI requests are routinely delayed, rejected or redacted beyond comprehension. Scotsman reporter Conor Matchett doggedly fought a 13-month transparency battle with them over the release of legal advice on a referendum. No doubt he felt he had been vindicated when the Scottish Information Commissioner's ruling ordered SNP ministers to release the documents. Yet again, however, we see that this SNP government considers itself above such regulation.

The Commissioner ruled that the information requested is in the public interest. Could anyone but the SNP argue otherwise? Only a threat to the career of John Swinney forced a U-turn in a similar case relating to the Salmond enquiry. Perhaps self-interest rather than the public will occasion a repeat in this instance. Or maybe the evidence will disappear into thin air like the notorious missing minutes or the documentation relating to the ferry or Gupta fiascos. The perennial questions arise. What are the SNP so desperate to hide and when will the Scottish people react to the culture of secrecy at the heart of this government?

Colin Hamilton, Edinburgh

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon may take court action to stop you hearing lawyer's advice given to her on the legality of Indyref2 (Picture: RUSSELL CHEYNE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Shallow promise

I seem to remember, not too long ago, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promising that her government would be more transparent and open in governing the country. That promise seems to have been kicked into the long grass, specifically in relation to the legal advice obtained in respect of a future Indyref2. Despite a ruling from the Information Commissioner ordering the government to release some of the legal advice, Ms Sturgeon seems to be hiding behind a “long-standing convention” to keep some matters secret unless exceptional circumstances prevail or disclosure might break the ministerial code.

However, surely it's in the public interest for taxpayers to know that further efforts to promote Indyref2, including the use of dedicated civil servants and additional legal measures, would be money well spent rather than throwing good public money after bad, as has happened with Ferguson Marine? Publication would also confirm that the Scottish government is serious in being more open and transparent in looking after Scotland. I wait with bated breath!

Bob MacDougall, Oxhill, Stirlingshire

Bad habits

In a democracy, there are certain givens. Among these is openness, transparency and accountability. In other words, we expect our legislature and the executive branch of government to be honest with us and to be judged thereby.The Information Commissioner previously had to force Alex Salmond to admit that he did not have the advice he claimed on Scotland remaining in the EU if we voted for independence, which was crucial in the referendum. Now, his successor has been ordered by the Information Commissioner to reveal legal advice given regarding the legality of a second independence referendum. Her response is that this order will be “considered carefully”. It is an order, not a request.Clarity is not the SNP's strong suit, as they claim that documentation regarding the awarding of the ferry contract “cannot be found” and, when questioned by a Holyrood committee last year, Ms Sturgeon “didn't know” the answer to questions 50 times!Now, she claims that Jim McColl is being “disingenuous in the extreme” when he says that he would not have signed the ferry contract had he known that CMAL “had reservations” (your report, 3 May). And yet, it is Ms Sturgeon's government which will not lift non-disclosure agreements relating to the matter, to let the Scottish people decide what happened, whilst also having “lost” crucial documentation relating to the self-same ferries. Clearly, obfuscation is habit-forming.Andrew HN Gray, Edinburgh

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Womanly words

Nicola Sturgeon refuses to define a “woman”, saying that would “oversimplify” the debate around trans rights at the level of “lurid headlines”. She wants to protect the rights of trans people “seriously” (fair enough) but agrees they are a “tiny minority” whose rights need “enhancing” by enabling them, including children of 16, to self-identify and change their legal sex at three months’ notice with no need even for a medical diagnosis or doctor’s certificate, let alone surgery.

However, despite her inability or unwillingness to define the word, which has covered around 50 per cent of the population since time immemorial, she uses it to assert “there is no conflict between women’s and trans rights”.

Also, while admitting she was not “in possession of all the facts” she was quite happy to state she did not believe Neil Parish’s explanation of how he first came across the porn site, while many, including the historian Mary Beard have shown how easy it is – like my wife’s friend looking for pet dogs online and was stunned at what appeared when she typed in “cocker spaniel”!

John Birkett, St Andrews, Fife

Finger pointing

I wonder if Tim Jackson of Gullane has given as much devotion as he has given to the “failings” of the Scottish Government (Letters, 3 May) to the failings of the UK government with its lies, law breaking, false promises etc, which also affects us in Scotland.

H A N McKenzie, Edinburgh

Windfall call

Oil giant BP has reported that for the first three months of this year profits have more than doubled following oil and gas prices soaring. With an underlying profit of £4.9 billion, compared to £2.1bn in the same period last year, this is well ahead of expectations. It is no wonder that BP boss Bernard Looney has described his company as a “cash machine”.

Rising profits have naturally renewed calls for a one-off windfall tax on energy companies to help UK households grappling with rising household bills. While gas prices have increased five-fold from prior to the pandemic and oil prices have almost doubled as economies open up, the choice for many, pushed into fuel poverty, will be between heating and eating.

The pockets of the oil companies are deep, having profited from higher wholesale prices, and a one-off windfall tax on excess profits on fossil fuel giants helping hard-pressed households cope with record energy bills is urgently required.

Alex Orr, Edinburgh

Baseless notion

So Nicola Sturgeon would like an independent Scotland to be in Nato but would remove one of their strategic bases. The strange world of the SNP.Lewis Finnie, Edinburgh

Sorted?

With local elections coming up many of us are faced with unenviable choices if, typically, none of the parties or candidates seem suitable. Given the way things work independent candidates remain lone voices in the wilderness created by party politics. The result is the same old same old. Whoever wins, the people have lost.

The ancient Athenians who developed democracy discovered the same problem. Disillusioned, the brighter ones came up with a solution I’d welcome back today: sortition. In effect selecting the legislators at every level in much the same way as juries are chosen: by lot or chance. One argument being that this gives space to the gods to influence events.

Of course, mere chance would allow very unsuitable persons to become MPs and councillors but, as with juries to day, candidates who don’t measure up to a suitable level of proberty, integrity, age or health would effectively eliminate themselves. If chosen one could still reject the honour, but if accepted then one’s career and the like would have to be protected for, say, the two parliamentary terms of office.

Being freed of political careerists, party dogma and pressure, the community will benefit from a vast range of talent and experience currently denied it. A welcome sea change.

Tim Flinn, Garvald, East Lothian

Tit-for-tat

The tit-for-tat the Ukraine conflict is causing goes on and on. The economic tussle now seems to be affecting billions worth of planes that the Russians have seized as a quid pro quo for the West's economic sanctions and the seizure of their oligarchs'’ ill-gotten gains in the form of luxury yachts, football clubs and so on. However, name calling seems to be the next area into which the two sides have been straying. The Russians have called the Queen “moss covered”, though I don't know why, and they also claim to have invented fish and chips, which leaves me unmoved, as they didn't invent brown sauce or mushy peas, so they didn't do much of a job.

Now, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov states that Adolf Hitler was partly Jewish, which has made the Israelis incandescent. I thought that most people knew that Hitler was not only partly of Jewish ancestry, but also partly Slav. Of course, he loathed both peoples and did his best to wipe them both out. The irony was that the blood of both races flowed in his veins and in those of Himmler and Goebbels too, as it did in the veins of Reinhard Heydrich, Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia who was half-Jewish and who was called "The Jew" behind his back by other Nazis. Now, I wonder what Putin's ancestry is?

Peter Hopkins, Edinburgh

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