26 September 2023

SCOTLAND: PS union take on Minister over freedom of information

Start the conversation

A Scottish Public Service union has attacked Minister for Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing (pictured) for “un-Ministerial” conduct.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, which has 26,000 members in Scotland, said the Minister was trying to avoid the Freedom of Information (FoI) law by failing to ensure that 25 meetings with the fish farming industry were recorded.

The Government has insisted however, that it kept records in line with “all relevant records-management legislation and practice”.

Over the past four years 21 meetings with seven salmon farming companies, and four with the industry’s umbrella body, were not minuted.

According to the relevant Agency, Marine Scotland, it was not normal practice to keep written records of meetings because those attending did not consider it necessary.

The Government pointed out that it was the responsibility of Public Servants, not Ministers, to arrange for meetings to be recorded, claiming there was “absolutely no breach whatsoever” of the Ministerial code by Mr Ewing.

PCS’s National Officer for Scotland, Cat Boyd replied by attacking Mr Ewing for trying to shift the blame onto his officials.

“Civil Servants are accountable to Ministers and fulfil what Ministers ask of them,” Ms Boyd said.

“It seems unlikely any Minister would be unaware of whether a minute of a meeting was being taken or not,” she said.

Ms Boyd said failure to know and to ensure proper record-keeping may not constitute a breach of the Ministerial code “but it does suggest at best a lack of awareness of what is going on and at worst a circumvention of the transparency required for FoI”.

Information Commissioner, Daren Fitzhenry declined to comment on whether the Ministerial code had been breached, but did stress the importance of keeping proper records.

Edinburgh, 7 June 2020

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.