Scott: Expand FOI to firms delivering public contracts

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott has today called for private sector companies which deliver public sector services to be subject to Freedom of Information requests, saying that firms with a crucial role in supplying the basic infrastructure of the country must be accountable to the public. 

Speaking ahead of a Scottish Parliament opposition day debate on transparency on Wednesday 20th June, Tavish cited ScotRail and contractors such as Carillion delivering the Aberdeen West Peripheral Route as examples of significant public infrastructure in which there was a clear public interest in greater transparency.

In a recent speech to the IPPR think tank, UK Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable called for reform of FOI laws in England to allow closer scrutiny of firms delivering public contracts as well as consideration be given to the creation of new legal entities for companies that regularly deliver public sector contracts.

A survey by the Scottish Information Commissioner previously found that 81% of the public think organisations building and maintaining schools and hospitals should be subject to FOI.

Public procurement of services is currently worth £11billion each year.

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Tavish highlights serious shortage of BAME top teachers

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Tavish Scott MSP has highlighted the continuing underrepresentation of ethnic minorities in top teaching posts, with new figures indicating that there are only a handful of BAME ethnic minority head teachers or depute heads across the whole of Scotland.

He also stressed the need to attract more people to the teaching profession and pay careful attention to diversity as part of this process.

The statistics are shown in Scottish Government data and backed up by Scottish Liberal Democrat freedom of information requests to local authorities. Among the 19 councils which provided a breakdown to the party, there were only 2 BAME head teachers and 2 BAME deputy head teachers in the whole of Scotland.

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Scott demands end to standardised testing

Shetland MSP and Lib Dem education spokesperson Tavish Scott has today criticised the First Minister's support for testing 5 year olds in primary school classes. Mr Scott has previously raised this with Education Secretary John Swinney at the Scottish Parliament’s education committee.

The SNP policy of standardised testing has been widely criticised, with recent reports suggesting that children have been left in tears. The policy has also been attacked by Professor Andy Hargreaves, a senior international adviser to John Swinney on education policy, who described standardised testing as an “attack on decisional capital” going on to say that “More testing means the testing replaces the judgement,” and that there was evidence “of testing actively causing ill-being”.

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Scott: SNP Government rightly "rebuked" for breaching FOI law

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said yesterday that a new report from the Scottish Information Commissioner into Scottish Government freedom of information handling is a stinging rebuke and the culmination of a decade of bad practice.

The report:

  • warns that journalists, together with MSPs and political researchers, "are expressly made subject to a different process for clearance than other requester groups", leading to additional clearance procedures and delays.
  • concludes that this two-track approach is "contrary to the spirit of FOI legislation" which established requests should be handled in a way that is "applicant, and purpose, blind".
  • criticises "unjustifiable, significant delays and disregard for the statutory timescales".
  • criticised a lack of clarity across the authority about the role of special advisers in request handling. In one example, a case handler recommended disclosure, before an unrecorded meeting with a special advisor saw this reversed, despite internal advice from officials to the contrary.
  • found significant gaps in the information recorded in case files, with some containing "no documentation whatsoever".
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Scott Challenges Police Taser Plans for Shetland

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott has expressed his concern at plans by Police Scotland to deploy Tasers in Shetland.

 

Mr Scott spoke with local Chief Inspector Lindsay Tulloch this week regarding plans to train five officers in Shetland for the use of Tasers. Similar plans are also in place for Orkney and the Western Isles to train officers between now and August.

 

Commenting, Mr Scott said:

 

“Police officers carry out difficult and dangerous work on our behalf and there is no question that they must be equipped to do their job safely.

 

“However, over recent years it has at no point been suggested that there is an increased level of threat in Shetland, either in terms of police or public safety. A more extensive deployment of Tasers has been justified nationally by Police Scotland. This is based on an assessment of risk across Scotland. It is difficult to see how this can be applied to policing in the islands where there has been a reduction in reported offences in the year to date.

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Scott: STV changes mean fewer journalists and fewer stories

Commenting after STV chief executive Simon Pitts faced the Scottish Parliament's Culture committee on Thursday over the reorganisation of STV which is set to see more than 50 jobs lost, Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott said:

"Today STV have confirmed that not only will there be fewer journalists in post, there will be fewer stories being covered.

“STV’s main shareholder is an investment company who soften up businesses for sale. That is what Crystal Amber who own 20% of STV do.

“STV management appear remarkably relaxed about this. That is extremely concerning for staff and people who want to see STV continuing as a Scottish company.”

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Scot Gov ministers “blind” to the potential of screen sector

In response to questioning from Tavish Scott this afternoon, Europe Minister Alasdair Allan has voiced opposition to the unanimous recommendation of the Culture Committee to separate screen sector governance from Creative Scotland.

The proposal has attracted cross-party support in committee and overwhelming industry support.

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Scott backs teacher demonstration against SNP mishandling of education

Commenting ahead of the EIS general meeting and plans for a national demonstration by teachers in Dundee City Square, Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Tavish Scott MSP said:

"Teachers want a fair financial settlement and a recognition of their workload. Schools have teaching vacancies across Scotland and this is why.

"So the Scottish Government need to immediately launch a new McCrone review, to properly assess teachers' terms and conditions. Teaching must be a valued, professional carer that people want to follow – that has to be the objective we should all share."

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Lib Dem MSPs strengthen Islands Bill

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have today successfully strengthened the Islands Bill with a number of amendments on mapping requirements, additional powers for local authorities and local authorities ability to retrospectively request community impact assessments. They then voted in favour of the “much improved” Islands Bill.

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur secured parliamentary backing for an amendment that will ensure so-called ‘island proofing’ is applied to existing as well as future legislation and policy. Then, despite government opposition, Mr McArthur secured a majority in favour of amendments that will enable island authorities to apply for more powers and responsibilities in future, where appropriate. Shetland MSP Tavish Scott secured support for his high profile amendment to stop Shetland being put in a box on Government documents.

In a series of further Lib Dem victories, parliament gave its support to measures that will ensure that the proposed National Islands Plan will include specific reference to the needs of island communities in relation to lifeline transport links, broadband and digital connectively and the need to address fuel poverty.

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University access gulf widening

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Tavish Scott MSP has today criticised the Scottish Government's efforts to widen access to university after new figures revealed that the number of Scottish students from deprived backgrounds starting full-time degrees fell last year.

The Scottish Government's own target says that students from the 20% most deprived backgrounds should represent 20% of entrants to higher education by 2030. However new figures released by the Scottish Funding Council reveal the proportion actually fell to 13.8% in 2016/17, down 0.2% on the previous year

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