Responding to the news that the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) has ordered the release of Prince Charles’s correspondence with Scottish Government ministers (1), James McEnaney, RISE education spokesperson, said:
“I welcome the decision of the SIC to order the release of Prince Charles’s correspondence with the Scottish Government.
“As the May election approaches, it is vital that voters know whether the heir to the throne has been lobbying Scottish minsters or attempting, in direct violation of his constitutional role, to influence Scottish Government policy.
“However, the decision raises certain questions about my own pending Freedom of Information (FOI) request regarding the SNP’s policy on national standardised testing in schools.
“Two weeks ago, I was told by the SIC that a decision on my request would be delayed until after the election due to the potential political ramifications of releasing information relevant to Government ministers during ‘purdah’ (2).
“But as we have now established, ‘purdah’ does not apply to the SIC. Indeed, the SIC has a responsibility to order the publication of information regardless of its political content. Anything less runs contrary to the spirit and the letter of FOI legislation.
“Explaining her decision on the royal correspondence, the Information Commissioner Rosemary Agnew dismissed suggestions that the release of the letters would prompt political speculation as “wholly unrelated to nature of the information withheld”.
“What, then, is so special about my case? Surely the potential political consequences of making a decision on my request are also “wholly unrelated to the nature of the information” I have requested? Why is the SIC going to such great lengths to keep my request out of the public domain until after the election?
“Last week, the SIC made an effort to repair some of the damage done to its reputation for impartiality. Since then, Rosemary Agnew has refused to answer any further questions and, as I understand, turned down an invitation to discuss the issue with me in public.
“But this controversy is not going away. Following its latest decision, confusion over the increasingly erratic and inconsistent conduct of Scotland’s FOI watchdog will only grow.”