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Financial Integrity, Football, Moral Integrity, Uncategorized

Glasgow City Council/Celtic EU State Aid investigation was one of the Scottish Government’s Off The Books ‘No Minutes’ cases.

The Ferret 1

On 1 June 2017, a major development occurred which unfortunately has been overshadowed by the noise from the General Election campaign. Twenty-three journalists representing major news outlets in Scotland wrote an open letter to MSPs tasked with selecting the new Scottish Information Commissioner. It was also copied to Derek Mackay – as FOI Minister, Leslie Evans – Permanent Secretary and Margaret Keyse – acting Scottish Information Commissioner. This was reported in The Ferret, from which the graphic above was taken.

The Scottish Information Commissioner ensures under FOISA, the Freedom Of Information Scotland Act., that the public allowed access to information of the Scottish public/government bodies, like the Scottish Government.

It has been discovered that Scottish ministers and our civil servants, who are supposed to serve us, have purposely not been taking minutes in any meetings in order to give them Deniability. Not only that there are no email trails for booking meetings, making queries and seeking clarifications. That allows them to say to a FOI requester ‘Sorry we have no information to give you’. The Scottish Government has been undermining the establishment and retention of public records of their conduct.

This means all their dealings with queries, internal incompetence, dodgy business conflicts of interest across the board have been not so much erased but never accounted for in the first place. This is 1984 in action.

No doubt there is no written evidence of the ‘No Minute’ policy but it must have been discussed internally and distributed to department heads otherwise the whole of the Scottish Government hierarchy has been undermining the people of Scotland.

That means when they conducted meetings or even before they were arranged, someone in the Scottish Government said firstly “Before we have this meeting you must agree not to document the proceedings and not only that you must agree not to document that we asked you not to document the proceedings”.

We can verify that this has happened to several FOI requests issued against the Scottish Government regarding the compilation of their EU letter 4 July 2014 claiming certain facts in justification of no impropriety in Glasgow City Council’s land deals with Celtic.

We believe that in so doing, in order not to create a public record, the Scottish Government have amateurishly not verified details on their submission to the EU and have publicly included 3 false and misleading statements in that letter:

  1. That Celtic was obligated to buy Westthorn as condition of their Lease with the GCC in 2000. No Evidence exists in the full Lease Agreement.
  2. That the GCC told the Scottish Government that access road restrictions reduced the number of units that could be built on Westthorn. No Evidence exists on the GCC website and this claim came out of the hat only on the EU submission.
  3. The URS document which the GCC used to increase Abnormal deductions to Westthorn’s price actually reside on Barrowfield.

The Scottish Government refused to supply any communications(emails, letters, teleconference notes), meeting minutes which they should have had between the parties for the Scottish Government to compile a submission to answer the EU State Aid case. Was it all done by ESP?

Open Letter to Scottish Parliament selection panel

There is no header date but the letter was sent on 1 June 2017 to the following parties:

Media Letter Scots Govt minutes 1

There are several complaints made by the journalists but the main one of interest is this one:

Media Letter Scots Govt minutes 2

Scottish Govt FOI Review reply on Westthorn

Under FOISA, a requestor can ask for information and if they do not believe the reply is adequate then they can ask for a review. All of which takes time and the public body under question can make all sorts of excuses from ‘not in the public interest’ to cost of the search being unreasonable. The last resort is going to the Scottish Information Commissioner to make a ruling. This whole process can take 6 months. Hence journalists frustrations. With a ‘No Minutes’ policy you can get to the end and find the cupboard bare. This is government without responsibility for errors.

Here are the relevant sections FOI Review reply from the Scottish Government regarding their handling of the submission to compose the EU letter clearing GCC and Celtic of State Aid:

FOI Review Reply:

SG FOI Review 1

SG FOI Review 2

SG FOI Review 3

What has happened is that, in their effort not to take minutes or create a timeline of communications, the Scottish Government decided to minimise consultation with Glasgow City Council.

Not only that, as can be seen in the FOI Review Reply, NO INDEPENDENT ANALYSIS was done on whether the statements made by the GCC were reliable and backed by evidence.

This appears to be a consequence of the policy of non documentation of minutes, since the Scottish Government would under FOISA be at risk of having to public air that report if it had been compiled.

Instead of doing due diligence the Scottish Government accepted what the GCC supplied and has propagated the false and misleading statements made to justify only selling to Celtic firstly and the second & third to reduce the valuation of Westthorn:

  1. That Celtic was obligated to buy Westthorn as condition of their Lease with the GCC in 2000. No Evidence exists in the full Lease Agreement.
  2. That the GCC told the Scottish Government that access road restrictions reduced the number of units that could be built on Westthorn. No Evidence exists on the GCC website and this claim came out of the hat only on the EU submission letter.
  3. The URS document which the GCC used to increase Abnormal deductions to Westthorn’s price actually reside on Barrowfield.

When governments want to do something underhand or illegal without accountability they keep it off the books. That’s how the Scottish Government has been operating. Unfortunately for the Scottish Government although hiding behind the ‘I know nothing’ only makes it looks it incompetent. Ignorance is no excuse when it’s their name on the EU letter.

Note: Some of the names at the end of the journalists FOI letter   will be very familiar as Celtic followers. It’s great they are fighting our corner to obtain the truth on Westthorn.

©footballtaxhavens.wordpress.com 2017 CC-by icon

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