By Bob Duncan
As the Scottish Parliament prepares to pass new Freedom of Information legislation today (Wednesday), which will enhance access to information by the people of Scotland, the SNP is urging Scottish Secretary Michael Moore to ‘get on with it’ and release secret Scotland Office files on Devolution.
Earlier this month it was revealed that, while 400 files from 1997 were released to the public, a number of others on the subject of devolution were retained following an intervention by the Scotland Office.
The 36 files covering the Labour Government’s 1997 devolution policy – believed to document splits over abortion and the powers of the new Scottish Parliament – were set to be published with the others under the SNP Government’s “15-year rule”.
The Scotland Office made use of it’s right to hold the files back for inspection before deciding whether or not they will allow them to be released.
In Whitehall, files are released when they are 30 years old, a time period that is being reduced to 20 this year. In Edinburgh, following a decision by Alex Salmond’s government, the records of the former Scottish Office can be released after 15 years.
The Scottish Government has made clear it has no objection to the release of the files. Jamie Hepburn MSP is writing to the Scottish Secretary to ask if he has read the files yet, and when he plans to release them, pointing out that they are a vital part of Scotland’s political history.
He questions how anyone can believe Westminster politicians’ assertions about Scotland’s future, when those politicians are trying to hide Scotland’s past.
Mr Hepburn said:
“This legislation will enhance access to information for people in Scotland. It will empower the ability to bring a prosecution in the event of information not being disclosed due to an alteration, destruction or concealment.
“This is a stark contrast with a UK Government that is currently holding back historical documents about devolution.
“Why is Michael Moore denying the people of Scotland information on their history?
“The Scotland Office has specifically held back files on devolution which should have been released earlier this month.
“They said they wanted to inspect the files before they released them – I would like to know if Michael Moore or even his officials have read them yet, and what is he planning to do with them.
“We know Labour ministers including Blair and Brown were at odds over devolution, but that is no reason to hold that information back.
“It is vital that in 2013 – the year before Scotland’s referendum on independence – Michael Moore acts honestly and openly with the people of Scotland. The material in these files is not just an important part of our history it could be of importance to the current debate over independence.”