The fireworks factory has not exploded

We’ve had another Freedom Of Information response from the Scottish Government.

Here it is.

So it turns out the thing we can all see happening, the thing anyone can click on and observe for themselves, simply isn’t happening.

So when the Scottish Government publishes a document containing the phrase “For clarity, the name of the First Minister’s Chief of Staff is Liz Lloyd”, and yet you cannot find that document by searching on its Publications website for the word “clarity”, or the phrase “Chief of Staff”, or the name “Liz Lloyd”, and even though all of those terms DO work for finding other documents but not for this one, that simply isn’t happening.

And even though scores of other documents also fail to show up in search results, and ALL of those documents, by the most astonishing coincidence, happen to concern the inquiry into allegations about Alex Salmond, it simply isn’t happening.

You only THINK you can see it. Click any of those links above, right now. The thing you thought you saw when you clicked them? Didn’t happen. You imagined it. There is no man behind the curtain. Please go away. Please go away. Oh God, please go away.



We should note that we also raised this matter with the Scottish Information Commissioner, and had received this reply some time earlier:

“Dear Rev. Campbell,

I write with reference to my email below, in response to your concern regarding the Scottish Government’s FOI disclosure log. As set out in my earlier email, I have made some preliminary inquiries in relation to your concerns.

In response to these initial inquiries, I have been informed by the Scottish Government that, in summary:

– No action has been taken to conceal publications from the Scottish Government website search engine.

– The website search engine requires individual search tags to be input as material is uploaded to the system.

– The website search engine uses these search tags to identify and return information in response to searches.

– Normal practice when uploading FOI disclosures is for search tags to refer to the nature of the information requested, rather than the names of individuals involved in any particular case.

The Scottish Government notes that limitations of their website search mean that this differs from the functionality of a search engine such as Google, which allows for text searches of entire documents to be carried out. The Scottish Government also notes, however, that the documents in question are also retrievable via external search engines using a range of relevant keywords.

In the process of carrying out these inquiries I note that you have separately made an FOI request to the Scottish Government in relation to this matter. This is referenced on your website, while the Scottish Government have also indicated that they are preparing a response to an FOI request on this issue.

With this in mind, I would suggest that the most appropriate route forward from this point would be for you to conclude your current FOI request to the Scottish Government. If, at the end of this process, you are dissatisfied with the Scottish Government’s response for any reason, you would be able to take this to the Commissioner on appeal.

This would ensure that any inquiries we carry out at this time do not have the effect of prejudicing any future FOI appeal you make to the Commissioner.

In the process of investigating any future appeal, the Commissioner may consider whether it is appropriate to comment on any broader issues relating to the FOI practice of the Scottish Government.

I hope this information is helpful. Further information on the process of making a formal appeal to the Commissioner is available on our website.


Paul Mutch”

It’s clearly complete nonsense, but Mr Mutch is merely the messenger.

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