Scottish Parliament pigeons too sensitive for FoI

Pigeons have been causing a nuisance at the £431 million Scottish Parliament before it even opened last year, with pigeon droppings and feathers getting through vents into MSPs' offices.

But a request by the Evening News under the Freedom of Information Act for documents showing how the parliament has addressed the issue resulted in a document of 376 pages with most of the details blacked out. 149 of the pages were completely blacked out and a further 102 were blacked out except for the heading or sign-off of the document.

The Evening News lodged the request on July 25 and it took the parliament two and a half months to provide the information. A covering letter justifies the withholding of the information on the grounds that it includes "personal information" or that its disclosure would harm commercial interests or would "prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs".

Independent Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald said: "This makes a total mockery of the idea of freedom of information or else there is total cynicism operating among the parliament officials as regards the requirement on them to come clean on everything except matters of national security."

Liberal Democrat MSP Donald Gorrie branded the parliament's stance "ridiculous": "It's completely over the top. People will look at this and it's the usual attitude of secrecy which is what freedom of information was meant to change."

A Parliament spokesman said: "Certain information has been withheld because it is either commercially confidential, relates to the free and frank exchange of views or is personal information which would be unfair to disclose." A spokeswoman for the Scottish Information Commissioner said they could not comment on the parliament's decision. But she said where parts of a document requested were exempt from release, public authorities were still expected to provide the parts that were not exempt.

Parliament's secret war that's doo sensitive to read about (Evening News, 20 October 2005)

Exposed: seagulls might be a problem for the parliament (Evening News, 21 October 2005)