Caledonian MacBrayne struggles to cope with FOI requests from competitors

The ferry operators Caledonian MacBrayne are struggling to cope with the number of requests for information they have received and have accused their competitors of launching a "strategic attack" against them by issuing over a hundred information requests.

Hugh MacLennan, head of communications at Caledonian MacBrayne, stated: “We are not saying the [Freedom of Information] Act shouldn’t be there, or should work only where we can easily answer public questions, but when it comes to being under siege by potential competitors, we have got to ask whether the reason is to undermine our operation.”

The company has received 159 requests for information since the beginning of the year and 103 of those have come from two of its potential competitors – Arran Ferries and Western Ferries.

The directors of Caledonian MacBrayne have raised concerns that sensitive information is being requested at the same time the company is tendering for services to the 22 islands and 4 peninsulas that it currently serves. The Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion, has stated that under the terms of the Freedom of Information legislation they must deal with each request individually.

CalMac hits out at rival operators (Sunday Herald, 27 March 2005)

1 comments: said...


You refer to our company Arran Ferries Ltd., in your log. It maybe helpful to let you have some background to our Freedom of Information Act (FOI) requests of Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd (CalMac).

Firstly, the figure is exagerated by the fact that if you make say 3 FOI requests and these are all turned down because you either asked the "wrong" question or your question is alleged to be too expensive to answer, you have to write 10 more detailed and spread out enquiries so stand a chance of asking the "right" question, and spreading the enquiry so the individual questions are not too expensive to answer. When these are point blank refused, then you have to write 10 appeals to CalMac. When these are refused you have to write 10 FOI complaints to the Information Commissioner. So there is an amplification process caused by the government organisation's obstruction as 3 original questions can easily become 33 through bureaucratic obstruction.

Secondly, it is a bit rich for Dr McLennan to whine about FOI requests when he is, albeit, indirectly, a government employee, and it is his government that brought in the legislation. The good doctor may be better served by obeying the law rather than cliping in the press, and in so doing compromising his position under the Data Protection Act.

Thirdly, had CalMac directors answere openly and fairly their reasons for obstructing our bid to buy the mv Pioneer we would not have to go to extraordinary lengths to prize the truth out of a particularly evasive government organisation.

Best regards,

Russ McLean, CEO, Argyll Group plc