Event: How can we save Freedom of Information? Tuesday 20 April 5pm

SNP group leader Jonathan McColl and Democrat editor Bill Heaney.

By Democrat reporter

Freedom of Information law continues to be ignored by the SNP administration at West Dunbartonshire Council.

Staff in the “communications” department at the Council have been told they mustn’t speak with or answer questions from The Dumbarton Democrat.

And members of the SNP in Dunbartonshire and Argyll – including the MPs Brendan O’Hara and Martin Docherty Hughes – have been told to tow the same party line after our owner was surrounded and ushered out of the public meeting by by chief officials and a press officer whom our editor Bill Heaney told to “bugger off”.

The SNP group leader Jonathan McColl issued the on-the-spot ban in a fascist-like manner and informed Mr Heaney that the, at that time, relatively new digital platform was supporting the wrong people – the trade unions and council staff. He then proceeded to smear Mr Heaney in a number of official publicly available e-mails which he placed on-line.

The Democrat proceeded to publish allegations about council officers being involved in meetings with a contractor when this was totally against the guidelines for procurement.

West Dunbartonshire Council had been ignoring the guidelines on procurement for a number of years. They are now ignoring the Freedom of Information regulations.

The officials also went golfing, dining out high off the hog and drinking with the contractor although there were no prosecutions and at least one chief official retired with a “golden parachute” pay off.

Cllr McColl is an SNP candidate on the West of Scotland regional list, although his deputy, Caroline McAllister, has jumped ship and will be standing on the same list for Alex Salmond’s ALBA party.

The Freedom of Information Act came into force in Britain a decade and a half ago. The Act has proved a crucial tool for citizens to hold government, at all levels, to account. But FOI is under threat. Responses to Freedom of Information requests are at an all-time low. There is evidence that FOI requests are being screened and blocked.

In this session co-ordinated by SOAS ICOP and openDemocracy, a panel of politicians and FOI experts will explore the challenges facing Freedom of Information in Britain and ask what can be done to protect the public’s right to know.

The speakers are:

Peter Geoghegan, investigations editor, openDemocracy.

  • Professor Alison Scott-Baumann, project lead, SOAS ICOP
  • Lord Clark, former Cabinet Office minister responsible for producing White Paper that led to the Freedom of Information Act 2000
  • David Davis, Conservative MP and former Brexit secretary 
  • Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary, National Union of Journalists
  • Jenna Corderoy, investigative reporter, openDemocracy
  • Dr Ben Worthy, senior lecturer Birkbeck University, author of the Politics of Freedom of Information
  • John McDonnell, Labour MP and former shadow chancellor

Please register by clicking the following link: 

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_h7orBhyDTrWm3makaPJDn

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