Scottish ministers were concerned about the possibility that the implementation of freedom of information would reveal their public and private lives, official records show.
In 2005, the year FoI was introduced north of the border, Scottish government cabinet papers show that ministers repeatedly expressed “concern” about the effect on them, their families and their workers.
Just days after FoI called for the resignation of the first MSP, the meeting, headed by then-First Minister Jack McConnell, took place.
The ministers arranged with officials heading the FoI unit of the government to discuss their concerns and requested to be alerted to “particularly difficult requests.”
They have also been told who will make the requests.
The Minister in charge said it was inconsistent and “very frustrating.” with the new system.
The advantages of FoI were publicly touted by the then coalition government of the Labour and Liberal Democrats, referred to as the Scottish Government.
In the files of the National Documents of Scotland, which were published under the 15-year scheme for Scottish government papers, the behind-the-scenes nervousness is exposed.
On Jan. 1, 2005, the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 came into effect, allowing people the right to request information from public bodies unless there are valid grounds for keeping it secret.
By Jan. 7, the first scalp had been retrieved by FoI.
The Liberal Democrat MP for Mid-Scotland and Fife, Keith Raffan, resigned for health reasons before the complete release of his expenditure claims.
It had emerged the previous month that he had paid £ 41,152 to the Scottish Parliament for driving his Skoda an astounding 83,477 miles to meet constituents – the equivalent of driving three times around the world.
When the full details were revealed, they showed that, despite not even being in Scotland, he had claimed to have been on the road in Fife for many days, and also claimed a staggering number of trips to Edzell in Angus, one of the most remote – and therefore lucrative – villages in his area.
On February 2, Margaret Curran, the Labor minister for legislative affairs, briefed the Cabinet on FoI.
The minutes said that later that day, she would release a press conference concentrating on the “benefits” that FoI would bring to Scotland.
She had received updates on requests for information from the FoI unit and’ who had made them, which she would pass on to ministers.’
“The minutes continue, “As would be expected, journalists received a large number of initial requests. There was nothing in the requests made so far or the replies that caused her any particular concern.
However, Ms. Curran said she was not confident in the ability of the company to follow up on FoI requests and manage them consistently.
She said her efforts to build a systematic method proved to be very challenging.
She asked the private offices for specific guidelines and for the appointment of a senior officer in each department to serve as a lead officer in standards of advice and monitoring. To brief the appropriate portfolio ministers regularly and work with her to ensure continuity as a network.
There was then a general debate in which concerns were raised about: the potential release of private information from ministers’ diaries and the effect it could have on ministers, their staff and families’ privacy and security; the impact of FoI on ministers’ meeting notes and the impact that could have on their ability to have free and frank conversations that are registered in a The effect of FoI on meetings attended only by officials; the willingness of press units to resolve the interest of journalists in “old stories”; examples where ministers challenged the line taken in cases, resulting in a shift in the line; and the role of senior officials in briefing ministers in departments. ”
The Cabinet noted that continuity in handling FoI requests was significant, with “some degree of central coordination” being exercised.
“Ministers need to have an overview of current issues and particularly difficult requests.”
It was then decided by the Cabinet to review the