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Posts Tagged ‘Alex Salmond’

Weekly News Round-Up: Scotland, court summons and the private sector

Alex Salmond accused of dishonesty over oil fund

Alex Salmond has faced Labour accusations of dishonesty after it emerged he was privately warned his flagship plan for an oil fund would require a separate Scotland to cut spending or increase taxes.

Opposition parties used First Minister’s Questions to contrast his public claims the proposal was affordable with a report by Scottish Government officials, which was published under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.

Written by civil servants in March last year, it showed that ministers were warned about their plan to squirrel away North Sea revenues in one or more funds instead of spending them on public services. Read more

Simon Johnson | The Daily Telegraph | 10th October 2013

Up to 450,000 face court over council tax arrears

More than 450,000 people could already have received a court summons because they have fallen into arrears with their council tax payments following changes to the system, it was claimed.

Ministers have been criticised over a decision to reduce spending on council tax benefit by £500m a year from April. The Government has told local authorities to decide who should lose the cash. Critics have warned that unemployed and low-paid families will be heavily affected as benefits to the elderly are protected. They have predicted the move will increase numbers of people struggling with unmanageable debts and the threat of visits from the bailiff.

Freedom of Information (FoI) responses from 112 English town halls have disclosed that 156,500 people have received summonses as a result of changes to council tax benefit six months ago. They included 11,830 disabled people, 2,153 carers, 59 veterans and 54 war widows. Read more

Nigel Morris | The Independent | 11th October 2013

Freedom of Information Act ‘should be for private firms too’

The Freedom of Information Act should be updated to include “any body funded by the taxpayer” said a Labour councillor.

The act applies to local and central government – allowing the public to ask for details about how they work – but not to the private companies and voluntary firms who carry out work for them.

Theo Blackwell, the London Borough of Camden Council cabinet member for finance, said it meant a “complex web of private contracts” is not subject to as much scrutiny. Read more

BBC News | BBC News | 9th October 2013

The day in FoIA: HMRC snoops on public 14,000 times in a year, City sackings soar as FSA cracks down and police numbers ‘lowest for 9 years’

The tax man is watching you: HMRC snoops on public 14,000 times in a year

Taxpayers’ personal data, including records of web sites they have visited and where their mobile phone calls are made, is being viewed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs on an increasingly frequent basis.

In 2011, HMRC was authorised to view 14,381 items of “communications data” on taxpayers while investigating tax evasion, compared with 11,513 items in 2010, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act and seen by The Independent.

Using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, HMRC can see web sites viewed by taxpayers; where a mobile phone call was made or received; and the date and time of emails, texts and phone calls. It is not clear how many times the surveillance has led to a successful prosecution for tax evasion – or whether those found to be innocent are told that they have been spied on. HMRC did not respond to requests for this information. Read more.

Nick Huber | The Independent | 13th January 2013

City sackings soar as FSA cracks down

Sackings and suspensions hit a five-year high in the City last year, as the financial crisis continued to take its toll on employment amid a clampdown on wrongdoing by the regulator.

A total of 1,373 City staff were suspended or dismissed last year, which represents a 76 per cent jump on the year before, as the Financial Services Authority stepped up its campaign against white-collar crime.

“The FSA has increasingly shown that it is cracking down on financial crime and market abuse. Financial services firms are operating under increased scrutiny and as a result employers are imposing industry rules more strictly,” said Helen Farr, a partner at Pinsent Masons, the law firm which sourced the figures through a freedom of information request. “FSA enforcement activity has clearly had an impact on firms’ willingness to tolerate wrongdoing. Firms now appear much more likely to discipline employees for offences,” Ms Farr continued, adding that the case of Kweku Adoboli had helped focus minds in the industry. Read more.

Tom Bawden | The Independent | 14th January 2013

Police numbers ‘lowest for 9 years’          

The number of police officers under the age of 26 has fallen by almost half in two years, it has been reported.

The 9,088 young officers working in England and Wales in 2009-2010 dropped to 4,758 in 2011-2012.

The sharpest drops of nearly two-thirds were reported by police forces in Cleveland, North Wales and Staffordshire, according to figures obtained by a Freedom of Information request by BBC Radio 4′s The World This Weekend.

In 2012 overall policing numbers hit their lowest in nine years, with around 10,000 fewer police officers than two years ago, following budget cuts which have slowed recruitment. Read more.

London Evening Standard | 13th January 2013

Scottish Lib Dems: Freedom of Information bill is first test of whether SNP government has listened to concerns

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP has urged the SNP toWillie Rennie begin 2013 with a fresh commitment to open government. Speaking ahead of the Stage 3 debate on the Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, Mr Rennie has called on Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to support the introduction of a purpose clause to the bill.

The purpose clause would plainly set out how the bill could be used to expand the public’s right to access information about bodies which spend the public pound. It requires governments to increase progressively the availability of information held by Scottish public authorities. This is an amendment the Scottish Liberal Democrats will be supporting in the final debate.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Mr Rennie said:

“2012 saw the SNP throw away any credibility it had for governing openly and transparently. While Alex Salmond talked of a modern, liberal Scotland, his government was drawing the blinds and double locking the doors. The Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) bill is the first test of whether the SNP have been listening to concerns about their fondness for secrecy. Read more.

Scottish Liberal Democrats | 11th January 2013

Rodents at Man Utd and Chelsea’s out-of-date turkey… find out who wipes the floor with the competition in the Premier League’s clean table

Mice, uncooked chicken and out of date turkey are just some of the hygiene nasties that health inspectors have discovered at Premier League football grounds.

The two most recent environmental reports from teams in the top tier of English football have revealed some surprising findings.

An inspection of Manchester United’s stadium Old Trafford discovered that the club has previously had to deal with the presence of rodents.

Chelsea FC, bankrolled by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, were criticised for previously almost serving ‘cooked turkey saddles’ that were out of date.

As a result they were warned that this was a ‘serious contravention’ of hygiene laws.

The information, which was obtained through Freedom of Information requests, also highlighted some other interesting discoveries.

Read more.

Tom White | The Daily Mail | 14th January 2013

 

 

The day in FOIA: Alex Salmond’s entertainment bill, 7000 operations cancelled in Wales hospital and outgoing Guantanamo detainees named by US

Alex Salmond spends £370,000 on entertaining

Alex Salmond spent more than £370,000 of taxpayers’ money on official entertaining during his first term in office, according to official figures obtained by the Daily Telegraph.

The First Minister’s private office paid out an average of £1,800 per week on food and drink between May 2007, when he took power, and his re-election four years later.

Mr Salmond ran up his highest annual bill of £115,542 – the equivalent of £316 per day – in the same financial year as the onset of the financial crisis, when thousands of families started struggling to make ends meet.

The Scottish Government finally relented and handed over the figures to this newspaper six months after we tabled a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. The statutory deadline is supposed to be 20 working days.

Read more.

Simon Johnson| The Daily Telegraph | September 25th 2012

Decisions to cancel 7,000 Gwent operations ‘not taken lightly

MORE than 7,000 operations were cancelled in Gwent hospitals last year, more than in any other health board area in Wales.

But health bosses said many cancellations are made by patients, and decisions to call off operations for clinical reasons are “never taken lightly.”

Figures obtained by Plaid Cymru through the Freedom of Information Act reveal that Wales-wide more than 50,000 operations have been cancelled in the past two years.

Read more.

Andy Rutherford| South Wales Argus | September 24th 2012

Leeds City Council pay out £1.2m to staff injured at work

Leeds City Council has been forced to pay out more than £1.2m to staff who have had accidents at work in the last five years.

Figures obtained by the YEP show an average of more than a hundred staff every year have put in personal injury claims since 2007.

A trip causing multiple injuries proved the most costly, with a fall causing back injuries also landing council chiefs a with a huge bill.

But the figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, also show that an assault at work was one of the top five compensation payouts made over the past five years.

Read more.

Stuart Robinson| Yorkshire Evening Post| September 24th 2012

US makes public names of 55 Guantanamo detainees to be transferred to other countries

The U.S. Justice Department on Friday made public the names of 55 Guantanamo prisoners who have been approved for transfer to the custody of other countries, releasing information sought by human rights organizations.

The announcement, which reverses a 2009 decision, was a surprise to organizations that had filed Freedom of Information Act requests seeking the information.

“We did not expect this,” said Omar Farah, attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights. “This is an important development.”

Farah said the government’s action will be a boost for lawyers representing detainees at the U.S. military base in Cuba. “We can now advocate publicly for the release of our clients by name,” he said.

Read more.

New York Daily News| September 23rd 2012

A day in FoIA: Salmond intends to ‘beef up’ Scots’ FOI rights | Clashes over badger cull poses public safety risk | FBI Refuses To Turn Over File of Saudi Hacking Investigation | Australian Tribunal orders release of log deal details | US Navy Submarine Commander Faked Death

Scots’ Freedom of Information rights to become more ‘robust’, says Alex Salmond

FIRST Minister Alex Salmond today said he is ready to beef up Scotland’s Freedom of Information (FOI) laws amid claims that the public’s rights have being “unacceptably eroded.”

• First Minister calls for FOI law to be extended to quangos

• Scottish Government in legal row with Information Commission over EU independence advice

Information Commissioner Rosemary Agnew warned this week that openness and transparency through FOI is now worse in Scotland’s public sector than when the landmark Freedom Information Act was passed 10 years ago.

Read more.

Scott McNab | The Scotsman | September 20 2012

Badger cull poses risk to public safety, ministers told

Night-time clashes between protesters against England’s imminent badger culland armed farmers pose a clear risk to public safety, ministers have been warned.

The campaign against the cull is set to be the biggest animal rights protest since foxhunting was banned in 2004 and has united the country’s biggest wildlife, countryside and animal welfare groups, hunt saboteurs and anti-vivisection campaigners. More than 57,000 people have signed a petition on the government’s website to stop the cull.

Mary Creagh, the shadow environment secretary, who obtained the police warnings through a freedom of information application, said: “The cull could make the problem worse, it will cost farmers more than they save and the police have expressed their concerns emphatically. We are deeply concerned that the government are ignoring official advice on the practical difficulties of the cull.”

Read more.

Damien Carringdon, Leo Hickman, and Steven Morris | The Guardian | September 19th 2012

FBI Refuses To Turn Over File of Saudi Hacking Investigation Says File ‘doesn’t exist’

In defiance of the Freedom Of Information Act, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has refused to turn over the file of a six month investigation of Saudi hacking and illegal film distribution in the US.

The FBI claiming the file “doesn’t exist” says it thus cannot comply with the Freedom of Information Act. The request was sent directly to FBI Director Robert Mueller more than three months ago and resent twice.

In fact, a large portion of the file, correspondence with three different FBI Agents working on the investigation, is currently held by journalist Jo Franklin.

Read more.

US Politics Today | September 19th 2012

Australian Tribunal orders release of log deal details

THE NSW government will be forced for the first time to reveal how much logging companies pay to fell native trees on publicly-owned land after a court ruled it was in the public interest that it do so.

The Administrative Decisions Tribunal found yesterday that Forests NSW must hand over information contained in its wood supply agreements, denied to the environment group the Nature Conservation Council of NSW last year after a freedom of information request.

In a test of the Government Information (Public Access) Act, which has replaced freedom of information laws, the tribunal ruled the information be released.
Read more.

Saffron Howden | The Sydney Morning Herald | September 21 2012

US Navy Submarine Commander Faked Death to End Affair, Navy Says

A Navy officer has been relieved of his duties as commander of a submarine following the discovery that he faked his own death in order to end an extramarital affair.

Navy Cmdr. Michael Ward II, 43, was dismissed from his post as the commander of the USS Pittsburgh just one week after he took command.

Ward was dismissed when Navy investigators found out that he had sent his 23-year-old girlfriend an email from a fake co-worker claiming that Ward had died, according to a report obtained by the Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act.

Read more.

Christina NG | ABC News | September 19th 2012

A day in FoIA: Rat meat sold to public, Prescott’s spending may be kept secret, PPI misselling, Scottish independence’s EU legal advice, Scotland home to more than 100 exotic animals

Cane rat meat ‘sold to public’ in Ridley Road Market

Cane rats and “shocking” quantities of illegal and “potentially unsafe” meat have been sold to the public in east London, a BBC London undercover investigation has found.

Secret filming in one of the capital’s busiest food markets has revealed butchers and food stores prepared to sell large quantities of meat that breaks food safety laws.

West African and environmental health officer sources told the BBC the Ridley Road Market, in Dalston, was a known hotbed of illicit meat activity, including sales of illegal “smokies”, a delicacy made by charring sheep or goat with a blow torch.

Yet a Freedom of Information request to Hackney Council reveals the last enforcement visits to premises concerning illegal meat in the whole borough took place in 2009.

Read more.

Guy Lynn | BBC | September 17th 2012

Details on who altered letter about Prescott’s spending may be kept secret

The government is threatening to block the disclosure of emails that reveal who removed key sections from a letter that exonerated Lord Prescott of false claims that he had used a government credit card for “cavalier” spending.

Despite a ruling from the information commissioner that the details be released this week, ministers may prevent the release of emails between the Cabinet Office and the Department for Communities and Local Government. Ministers are contemplating a defence under section 36 of the Freedom of Information Act that release of the emails may prejudice the “effective conduct of public affairs” or “collective cabinet responsibility”.

The emails centre on unfounded claims by the Tory co-chairman Grant Shapps, who was then a housing minister, that the former deputy prime minister’s “private office” had spent £2,000 on Whitehall credit cards, supposedly including a trip to an Australian casino. In fact the spending was entirely legitimate. The only untoward items were due to the government-issued credit card having been cloned.

Read more.

Randeep Ramesh | The Guardian | September 16th 2012

FoI reveals lack of accountability over PPI misselling

The FSA has not brought any enforcement cases against individuals for the misselling of payment protection insurance in the last three years and says it has no plans to do so.

London-based IFA Wexdon Financial Services submitted a Freedom of Information request to the regulator to find out whether individuals have been held to account over the recent PPI misselling scandal which could cost the industry around £10bn in compensation.

Read more.

Natalie Holt | Money Marketing | September 17th 2012

Scottish independence: Court hearing over government’s EU legal advice

A court hearing will take place this week over the Scottish government refusal to reveal advice on the status of an independent Scotland in Europe.

Scotland’s Information Commissioner Rosemary Agnew has asked the Court of Session for an urgent hearing.

Under Freedom of Information laws, she wants the government to say whether it has received any legal advice.

However, First Minister Alex Salmond said to reveal the information would be breaking the ministerial code.

Read more.

BBC | September 17th 2012

The North-East of Scotland is now home to more than 100 exotic animals

DEADLY snakes, wild cats and herds of bison are now calling Scotland their home.

More than 100 of the world’s more exotic creatures are being kept under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act in North-East Scotland, a freedom of information request has revealed.

A western diamond back rattlesnake, which has a deadly venomous bite, lives in one Aberdeen city centre flat.

Read more.

Deadline News | September 17th 2012

Number of animals used in University of Leeds testing revealed

Number of animals used in University of Leeds testing revealed   

Almost 17,000 animals were used in medical experiments conducted by the University of Leeds last year – and most of them were killed.

A Freedom of Information request submitted by the Yorkshire Evening Post revealed the university has carried out experiments on 55,235 mice and 5,155 rats over the past five years.

Other animals subjected to scientific tests between 2007 and 2011 were pigs, sheep, bats, gerbils, rabbits, guinea pigs, toads, frogs, and birds

Read more.

Debbie Leigh | Yorkshire Evening Post | 29th June 2012

Civil servants find no documents supporting Alex Salmond’s BSkyB lobbying ‘alibi’

The Daily Telegraph used the Freedom of Information Act to ask for all emails and civil service minutes of meetings and telephone calls between the Scottish Executive and Mr Murdoch’s News Corporation that indicate the deal would have created jobs.

But Patrick Berry, Mr Salmond’s assistant private secretary, could not find any and said all the First Minister’s communications with the Murdoch media empire were published by the Leveson Inquiry earlier this month.

These documents also contained no mention of extra jobs. Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary who was in charge of ruling on the aborted takeover, has already said that he was not aware of the deal increasing employment north of the Border.

Read more.

Simon Johnson | The Telegraph | 28th June 2012

The FBI’s Secret Surveillance Letters to Tech Companies

Just what kind of information can the government get with a so-called “national security letter” – the tool that allows investigators to seek financial, phone and Internet data without a judge’s approval?

It’s a secret.

The letters let the Federal Bureau of Investigation get information without going before a judge or grand jury if it’s relevant to a national security investigation. The letters have been around since the 1980s, but their use grew after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and passage of the USA Patriot Act. Tens of thousands of the requests are sent each year, but they are generally .

Read more.

Jennifer Valentino-DeVries | Wall Street Journal | 27th June 2012

Chinese Still Face Long March To Establish Freedom Of Information‏

Reporters Without Borders said Tuesday it is deeply concerned about the continued attacks by the Chinese authorities on those such as artists, human rights activists and the media who bring public attention to sensitive subjects.

“Rights campaigner Hu Jia beaten up on June 20, artist Ai Weiwei facing improper legal proceedings, journalists of the South China Morning Post forced into self-censorship… the record is shocking,” the press freedom organization said.

Read more.

Eurasia Review | June 27th 2012

ICO chides South Yorkshire Police over arrest data blunder

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has chided South Yorkshire Police over a data breach that saw information on 600 arrests sent to a journalist by mistake.

The force sent data in response to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request but accidentally included sensitive information, including details of the offences for which the arrests were made, in a spreadsheet attached to the email.

The ICO said it decided against any financial action as staff at the force are trained regularly on handling FoI requests and the information had been deleted by the recipient once it was realised to have been sent by mistake.

Read more.

Dan Worth | V3 | 27th June 2012

 

 

173 allegations of misconduct against just TWO police officers… who are still on duty

Two police officers have had hundreds of complaints made against them by the public, it has emerged.

The pair have faced 173 misconduct allegations as serious as perjury, sexual assault and violence by people they have dealt with professionally.

Police chiefs have held 43 probes into each officer’s behaviour and between them they have been spoken to on four occasions and faced unspecified “management action” over four other incidents.

Their records were revealed in figures released by their force after a Freedom of Information request by the Daily Mirror.

Read more here.

Tom Pettifor| The Mirror| 3rd April 2012

‘Like China or Iran’: Furious backlash over Government plans to snoop on emails and phone calls

David Cameron was hit by a furious backlash yesterday over his “Big Brother” plans to snoop on emails, texts, phone calls and social media sites.

The Information Commissioner warned the move would amount to “intrusion on a massive scale, unprecedented in history or geography”.

The watchdog also said there was a risk that private information of politicians and celebrities could fall into the wrong hands as a result of the unprecedented new spying laws.

Tory MP Dominic Raab yesterday released documents from the Information Commissioner’s Office obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, spelling out the fears of giving the security services such sweeping powers.

Read more here.

Jason Beattie| The Mirror| 2nd April 2012                                                                                           

Archbishop risks row with Israel after lobbying Hague over Christians ‘displaced by security barrier’

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has risked a row with the Israeli government after it emerged he lobbied William Hague over the plight of Christians in the West Bank.

The Most Rev Vincent Nichols urged the Foreign Secretary to address the “tragic situation” facing of Palestinians displaced by the building of the Israeli security barrier in Beit Jala, a predominantly Christian town a little over a mile from the Church of the Nativity.

He said the “expropriation” of land by Israel had a “catastrophic impact” on the village and risked furthering the conflict. Much of the land has been owned by religious orders and Catholic families dating back 200 years.

The letter is one of the strongest indications yet of the Archbishop’s views on the Middle East conflict. Pope Benedict XVI has described the barrier as “tragic”.

The letter, sent in November and released under the Freedom of Information Act, also praised Mr Hague’s leadership as Foreign Secretary through the Arab Spring.

Read more here.

Mathew Holehouse| The Telegraph| 2nd April 2012

Alex Salmond facing second inquiry into SNP donor links  

Alex Salmond is facing a second investigation into allegations of abusing the First Minister’s office to fund-raise for the SNP after questions were raised over his links with three more party donors.

SNP ministers are refusing a request under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act to release correspondence between them and Sir Brian Souter, the Stagecoach tycoon who has given the party more than £1 million.

They said it would be too expensive to publish the information despite Scotland’s information commissioner warning they had “failed to comply” with the law by blocking the release

Read more here.

Simon Johnson| The Telegraph| 2nd April 2012

ACLU: Documents show questionable FBI intelligence gathering

FBI agents in San Francisco used “community outreach” as a cover to collect intelligence on Muslim individuals and organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union claims, based on new documents it obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

The advocacy group says that between 2004 and 2008, federal agents documented complaints from mosque congregants about delays in air travel, took notes on the contents of a sermon and used a meeting participant’s cellphone number to hunt for his Social Security information, date of birth, home address and more in government databases.

All of this was done, the ACLU contends, without clear evidence of criminal or terrorist activity. Files documenting the FBI’s outreach allude to agents starting conversations with Muslims by asking whether they have suffered from possible hate crimes, but subsequent notes are instead classified as “secret” and marked as “positive intelligence,” meaning the information may end up being kept among the FBI’s national security records.

Read more here.

G.W. Schulz| ABC|  2nd April 2012

Hillsborough: The Thatcher papers

“In brief, we have learnt that the top ranks of Merseyside Police helped to misinform Margaret Thatcher by wrongly blaming Liverpool fans”

- Martin Rosenbaum, BBC Freedom of Information specialist

Requests made under the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) reveal that the government of Margaret Thatcher was misinformed about the cause of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, the BBC reports.

In July 2011 the Information Commissioner ruled that it was in the public interest for documents about the Hillsborough tragedy to be released, since it would “add to the public knowledge and understanding about the reaction of various parties to that event, including the government of the day”.

The disclosed information shows that in April 1989 Prime Minister Thatcher was mislead about the tragedy at Hillsborough stadium, Sheffield in which ninety-six fans watching the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forrest were crushed to death as a result of overcrowding. Drunken Liverpool supporters were, according to Merseyside Police’s description to the former Prime Minister, the cause of the incident.

The BBC adds: “The briefing she received also reported the assessment of the then Merseyside Chief Constable Sir Kenneth Oxford. He thought that a key factor was the presence of Liverpool fans without tickets and this was being ignored while the authorities were being blamed.”

Liverpool fans still mourn and seek explanations to the deaths of many of their fellow supporters. However, they have been blame had also been pointed to them for the Hillborough tragedy by South Yorkshire Police, who monitored the stadium on the day.

Cost of Scottish Nationalist Party’s Headline Policies revealed under FoIA

SNP leader Alex Salmond blocked the release of highly sensitive information until after the Scottish elections by appealing to the Court of Session twice, after the Scottish ICO ordered disclosure of data. The Telegraph, who made the request for the cost of “”headline policies” such as the removal of council tax have accused the SNP of spending hundreds of thousands of pounds to cynically delay disclosure until after the election, which the SNP won.

The Telegraph states that: “The SNP’s plan to replace council tax would have resulted in a shortfall of almost £800 million, meaning that its local income tax replacement would have had to be set 50 per cent higher than Mr Salmond planned. This would have meant a rate of 4.5p in the pound, rather than the 3p promised by the SNP. But the SNP leader went not once but twice to the Court of Session — at a cost of £100,000 to the taxpayer — to block this newspaper’s political editor, Simon Johnson, from revealing the truth before last May’s election

Scottish spin doctor’s bid to silence truth about referendum

Alex Salmond’s spin doctor was exposed last night for having attempted to stop an expert on referendums communicating to journalists that a two-question referendum plan was “not tenable”.

The Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Scotsman report that spin-doctor Kevin Pringle urged Matt Qvortrup, a political scientist at Cranfield University, to retract his comments to The Times and write a letter saying he had not been reported accurately.

Dr Qvortrup had stated that the First Minister’s favoured scheme for the referendum ballot paper, where there would be one question on independence and another on Scotland acquiring full financial powers while staying within the Union, couldn’t be achieved.

Six emails released under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that the spin doctor had told Dr Qvortrup: “I will say that you contacted me and sent me a copy [of the letter to The Times], because we have spoken about such matters in the past. I would advise you not to take press calls, but to let this speak for itself.”

Scottish Labour who submitted the FoIA requests said the “big question” was whether the cover-up was orchestrated by the First Minister of Mr Pringle.

A third of poor countries’ debt to the UK is interest

A Freedom on Information request to UK Export Finance has revealed that a third of the debt owed to the UK by some of the world’s poorest countries consists of interest on the original loans, a figure debt campaigners condemn as “ridiculously high”, The Guardian reports.

MPs’ unreasonable food complaints

The Daily Mail published today the details of the ‘suggestions’ box from the House of Commons restaurants, revealing some MPs’ unreasonable demands. The “pedantic moans” included eggs being too ‘watery’, vending machine crisp packets being 10 grams too light and the beer being too expensive at £2.60 a pint.

Foreign Office faces Information Tribunal about UK residents’ secret rendition

An all-party parliamentary group, chaired by Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie is asking for full disclosure of intelligence documents possibly implicating British officials in secret renditions of UK residents to Guantánamo Bay and other notorious jails.

The Guardian reports that an Information Tribunal is currently examining whether or not those documents should be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, as lawyers for the Foreign Office claim.

The newspaper also mentions that Tyrie’s parliamentary group is opposing the refusal of the FCO with the support of the Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham.

The team asks for the release of documents relating to three cases: The rendition and ill-treatment of UK resident and Guantánamo detainee Binyam Mohamed, the FCO’s request to former US state department legal adviser John Bellinger to claim Washington opposed the disclosure of CIA information about Mohamed that was passed on to MI5 and MI6, and finally communications between Britain’s intelligence and CIA about Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna, who were also held in  Guantánamo Bay.

Ian Cobain, a journalist for the Guardian, told the tribunal that a pattern of allegation and denial followed by later acknowledgement that the allegations may have had substance after all “has been repeated several times over the last six years”. The case continues.

Doctor trainees’ rotas might ignore EU directive

FoIA replies relating to junior doctors’ rotas in NHS trusts had been brought into question by Bob Greatorex, the head of workforce planning and professional standards, it emerged today. The Telegraph reports 57 of the 77 trusts questioned replied to British Medical Journal Careers’ requests and although the data show all comply with the EU directive of a 48-hour limit, Mr Greatorex doubted its accuracy saying many trainees work extra hours not recorded under the system.

Scottish Executive’s secretary communications flooded with personal data instead of governmental issues

Sir Peter Housden seems more preoccupied with mundane hobbies, films and shopping than governmental issues, judging by his weekly updates to thousands of his staff. An FoIA request filed from The Telegraph, revealed that the Scottish Executive’s permanent secretary even received a complaint from a civil servant that he was not saying enough about his actual job.

Scottish First Minister criticised for ‘culture of secrecy’

Alex Salmond was brought under pressure last night for refusing to disclose information about any legal advice received pertaining to independent Scotland’s statutes in Europe, the Scotsman reports today. Following an FoIA request, the First Minister said according to the Ministerial Code of Conduct such advice is confidential, but a spokesman for the Scottish Labour party complained Mr Salmond was adopting a “culture or secrecy”. “The only thing stopping him from doing it may be that the Scottish Government hasn’t taken legal advice, or that it fatally undermines his case,” he said.

Carmarthenshire council spends £100,000 on private eyes

A freedom of information request to Carmarthenshire council revealed it has spent £100,000 on private detectives over the past three years, This is South Wales reports.

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