The Ministry of Defence has come under heavy criticism after a Freedom of Information request exposed a list of 13 Scottish sites contaminated with potentially lethal radiation.
Fife’s Dalgety Bay, Moray’s RAF Kinloss, Argyll’s RAF Machrihanish base and the former Defence Aviation Repair Agency factory near Perth are the latest military sites left with “historic radium problems”, The Express on Sunday reports.
The Express states that most contamination is caused by radium sulphate paint, used in military equipment such as aircraft instrument panels to aid night visibility. Despite their environmental and health hazard, planes were buried as scrap while in other instances the material was dispersed as ash after incineration.
Last October Mike Weir MP, the SNP’s UK environment spokesman, had asked Defence Minister Andrew Robathan for a list of all locations where radium had been buried, to no avail.
After the recent FoIA revelations the Angus MP criticised the MoD, The Herald reported. The MP said: “The behaviour of the Ministry of Defence has been evasive and shifty. We need total transparency.”
The Express also mentions that the Scottish Sunday Express has already revealed that experts plan to investigative at least two more hotspots, including one next to a primary school, in Wishaw, Lanarkshire.
Scottish public CCTV cameras double over recent years
Figures obtained after Freedom of Information requests submitted by the Scotsman reveal Scotland as one of the most “surveillance-heavy” countries in the world, spending up to £8m to maintain them per year. The newspaper reports that there are currently 3,115 operating CCTV cameras across the country, while in 2003 there were 1,269.
New Scottish law brings more than 60 stalkers to court
More than 60 stalkers have been convicted in the first year of Scotland’s anti-stalking legislation, the Scotsman reports. The figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show more than 400 complaints against stalkers have been investigated by the police.
Number of drivers using mobile phones while on the wheel is rising
Freedom of Information requests submitted by Swiftcover.com, a motoring insurer, have revealed the number of drivers fined for using their mobiles while driving has risen to a new high, The Sunday Times reports. Figures released by 41 of 43 police authorities in England and Wales reveal the number of offenders who received a £60 fine and three penalty points in the 12 months to the end of August last year was 171,223, more than 4,000 above 2006’s record number.
The Ministry of Defence has spent almost £600m on hundreds of external specialists, consultants and advisers, breaching government guidelines about expenditure.
Figures released under FoIA show that the MoD spent £564m in the last two years for the “technical support” of teams running the department’s biggest engineering and procurement projects. In 2006 that figure was £6m.
The Freedom of Information request submitted by The Guardian also revealed that an internal audit of the defence contacts signed in the last two years highlighted numerous flaws and characterised MoD’s control of its own budget as “poorly developed or non-existent”.
The disclosure has infuriated trade union leaders, who claim the MoD is paying the price for cutting too many in-house specialists, which has forced it to rely on expensive help from the private sector.
But defence minister Andrew Robathan has claimed nothing was wrong. In a letter to union leaders after the internal report’s publication, he wrote: “I am … content that appropriate safeguards are in place.”
The expenditure figures snowballed after a new regime introduced by Labour in 2009, allowed senior defence officials to hire specialists short-term and without authorisation from a minister.
As The Times also reports, 380 firms are currently paid to give technical support to the MoD. It also revealed one firm, Alix Partners, earned £5.5m at a rate of £4,000 per consultant per day.
Governments resists disclosure of Nestlé takeover documents
The government is blocking The Press in York’s FoIA request to gain access to the documents relating to Nestlé’s takeover of Rowntree in 1988. As the Guardian’s Roy Greenslade reports, after The Press’s original request in 2008 was rejected, its second application in 2010 was approved by the Information Commissioner’s Office. Nevertheless, the government has appealed against that decision, taking the case to the first-tier tribunal of information rights.