SNP ministers have been accused of “riding roughshod” over Freedom of Information (FOI) laws.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said one in six requests to the Government are responded to late. Meanwhile, there has been a fivefold increase in the number of requests passed to ministers for approval since 2020.
Mr Sarwar accused the SNP of a “culture of secrecy and cover-up” as he clashed with Humza Yousaf during First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood on Thursday.
He said: “Freedom of Information laws are one of the last defences against SNP cover-up – but ministers are riding roughshod over these laws. New data we are publishing today shows the number of FOI requests the Scottish Government has passed on to ministers for approval has risen fivefold.
“Once a case goes to ministers – to sign off or to cover-up – waiting times double, with one in every six FOI responses breaching legally-binding response times.” He insisted the SNP “despise” transparency.
Last year, the Scottish Government pledged to improve its performance around FOI requests in response to concerns from the Information Commissioner. Mr Yousaf accused the Scottish Labour leader of “desperation”, saying he was “trying to throw as much mud as he possibly can to hope that things stick”.
The First Minister said the Government had ambitious targets for FOIs and he had already promised to improve performance, saying he wanted to “ensure that we are the most transparent Government on these islands”.
Mr Sarwar went on to ask the First Minister about the outcome of a bullying investigation into former minister Fergus Ewing and whether this could be released. Mr Yousaf said the Government must adhere to legal advice and would take a “responsible approach”.
The Scottish Labour leader also made a reference to the police investigation into the SNP’s finances, which has seen a luxury campervan seized. Mr Sarwar said: “The SNP are taking Scots for a ride and we don’t even get the luxury of enjoying the campervan. FOI laws are flouted, dissent is suppressed and problems are swept under the carpet.”
Mr Yousaf referred to recent opinion polling, saying: “I saw Anas Sarwar celebrating polls that one again put the Labour Party in second place. Celebrating being a loser, that sums up Anas Sarwar and the Scottish Labour Party.”