John Swinney: 'SIC to investigate'

It's being widely reported this morning that John Swinney's office is to be investigated by the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC).

SIC, Daren Fitzhenry, has reportedly confirmed he will probe claims that John Swinney's special adviser Colin McAllister had documents removed from a freedom of information (FOI) response.

The investigation has been announced following a FOI request from journalist and lecturer James McEnaney. Internal Scottish Government emails show McAllister asked for documents to be withheld whilst preparing Mr McEnaney's FOI request.

It is understood this investigation by the SIC is part of a wider review into the Scottish Government's handling of FOI requests. The role of SPADs (special advisers) is also said to be under examination.

Nicola Sturgeon confirmed during First Minister's Questions last week that oversight of FOI requests by ministers and the involvement of SPADs was "very routine" and had been the case "right back to before we were in office". Parliamentary business minister Joe FitzPatrick told MSPs last summer that SPADs only assess freedom of information responses for accuracy.

The Liberal Democrat MSP, Tavish Scott, commented:

"The information commissioner is quite right to investigate these serious allegations.

"The documents reluctantly released by the Scottish Government suggested that special advisers were interfering in the content of replies to freedom of information requests in the very same week that ministers told me and parliament they weren't.

"What ministers would 'prefer' isn't relevant when it comes to freedom of information. It is a matter of the law and the public's right to information which is clearly defined in legislation.

"We need to see a thorough investigation of the Scottish Government's approach to information governance."

In his response to Scott, the SIC said:

"It will not surprise you that the cases referred to in your letter will be included in the list of cases to be examined, and will receive my attention."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said:

"There is no investigation into the deputy first minister or his office and the commissioner's letter does not support Mr Scott's claim.

"The information commissioner's response to Mr Scott confirms that the case in question is one being considered as part of his general assessment of the Scottish Government's approach to Freedom of Information.

"This action was set out publicly in a letter last week by the information commissioner."
SNP MSP Mark McDonald quits SNP in Sleaze Investigation
  • Alfie Baron

Aberdeen Donside MSP Mark McDonald has quit the Scottish National Party (SNP).

His resignations follows allegations of misconduct against at least two women.

McDonald resigned from the SNP with immediate effect - but will remain as an Independent MSP.