Why we will continue digging into Scottish Government affairs - Neil McIntosh

We're immensely proud of Conor Matchett, our Deputy Political Editor, who has picked up another award for his reporting in The Scotsman on care home deaths during the Covid crisis.

The latest recognition - from MHP Mischief's 30 To Watch Young Journalist Awards - was for Best Campaign or Investigation, and recognised Conor's hard work to expose the number of deaths in Scotland's homes during that dark period.

James Ball, the global editor of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, said Conor's journalism "showed what was happening in the Scottish Government to cover up data on care home deaths timed around an election (last year's Scottish Parliament elections)”.

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Ball added: "With something so important, this was really quality, important reporting, especially for the families affected by that crisis.”

Nicola Sturgeon delivers remarks before meeting with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Picture: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

We agree. We'd also point out that Conor has won a number of other significant Freedom of Information request battles with the Scottish Government.

His latest – after a 13-month battle – was around advice it got on the legality of a second independence referendum.

The Scottish Information Commissioner said that advice should be released because of the "exceptional" public interest, and the fact that interest outweighed any other considerations. After all, every person living in Scotland would have a stake in its contents: what greater public interest could there be?

This meant the information had been withheld unlawfully. But, remarkably, the First Minister's response was to say she would only consider a release "carefully". We await that release.

It is, of course, a journalist's job to uncover things others would rather remain secret. But governments should not, by default, sit on the opposite side of that task.

Nicola Sturgeon used to give the impression she might believe this too. "I am determined to lead an outward-looking government," she said in 2014, "which is open and accessible to members of the public, ensuring that the SNP remain close to all the people we serve, regardless of how they vote."

Politicians' determination can wane, it seems. Eyes can be taken off balls. So we will continue to make it our business to be watchful, and support our journalists as they dig out the facts, on your behalf.

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