I've been blogging now for not too far short of eight years and in that period I've made it a strict rule not to quote more than a small amount of text from other sites.
But I'm making an exception here. This is what this week's Scottish Review has to say about events following its recent revelations:
... it came to our notice that a vital section of the Scottish Government's official website – the online directory of non-departmental public bodies – had effectively been killed. It was there in full last week when the Scottish Review, using information gathered partly from the directory, partly from our own research, published a league table of the highest earners in the non-departmental public sector and the national press picked up our work, using substantial extracts. It was there in full the following day when the First Minister, Alex Salmond, faced awkward questions about our list from the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Tavish Scott. It was there in full as recently as Tuesday, when we last checked. But it is not there now.I've just sent off my subscription to the Scottish Review. Please do the same.
What was there before? In almost all cases there was a useful description of the organisation's remit; its grant-in-aid from public funds; a complete list of its members – their names, occupations, towns of residence, dates of appointment, and remuneration from public funds; the name of the chief executive, if applicable, and his or her salary. All that has gone. When we clicked the 'cached' option in an effort to retrieve the data, we discovered that all the former pages had been systematically taken down.
What is there now? Only the email addresses of Scotland's quangos and links to their websites. We can testify to the enormous difficulty of obtaining information about remuneration from these websites; in the cases of area health boards it required patience and tenacity over a period of weeks.
What we have witnessed this week is the abrupt withdrawal by the Scottish Government of the single most valuable source of information about Scotland's public bodies and a full-frontal attack on freedom of information. Why has it happened?
There are lots of Scots like myself who are coming to the conclusion that the British state is kaput. Here's a site I've recently discovered that makes that line of argument.
And Bill Jamieson's piece in today's Scotsman is superb, but unfortunately behind the subscription wall. From my dead tree version I note that Bill says:
We are as good as bust, gutted with debt, spent out and played out, with the UK or what passes for it, in the terminal ward ... Little wonder that Jim Sillars in an electrifying pamphlet this month urges Scots to get shot of all of this.The Jim Sillars piece is here and makes fascinating reading.
The general election approaches and previously Tory voters like myself must make our choice. If I lived in Leith I'd be voting for Iain McGill, whom I know. But I don't live in Leith and I'm seriously thinking of voting SNP, despite the awful appearance by the smug and schoolmarmish nanny statist Nicola Sturgeon on Question Time last night.
The Scottish Review's reporting reminds us that the SNP really does have to understand that we the people own the government and not the other way round.