Another Rob Edwards exclusive in today’s Sunday Herald reveals that the Information Commissioner, Rosemary Agnew, is tomorrow [3rd December 2012] to rule against the Scottish Government and compel them to publish details of which salmon farms have killed seals across Scotland.
Edwards says that the Commissioner is describing as ‘tenuous’ Scottish Government ministers’ pleading for secrecy; reporting her as saying that she is “disappointed” at the Government’s failure to provide evidence to support its somewhat eyebrow-raising claim that public safety would be put at risk were they to do so.
Unless the government chooses to mount an appeal against the Commissioner’s decision at the Court of Session, ministers will have to reveal, by 10th January 2013, the number of seals killed by companies operating fish-farm and the numbers they have killed at each specific site.
The government’s ‘public safety’ ploy was revealed by Edwards in September and floated the notion that the identification of sites where such killings were routinely taking place would lead to direct action by protesters.
The Commissioner is understood to be quote aware of the extent to which this issue moves people but has seen no documentary evidence from the government that would indicate a consequent risk to public safety. Edwards quotes her as saying: ‘Ministers have failed to demonstrate a real risk or likelihood that the harm they anticipated was likely to occur.’
It is worth noting that when Rosemary Agnew was appointed to replace Scotland;s first and revered Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunnion, there was much sucking of teeth and muttering that she was a government stooge and unlikely to rock any boats.
She has proved to be no stooge but someone who is being consistently exemplary in making the objective considerations of evidence that is all any fair minded person hopes to see – whichever way she rules.
It would seem that the office of Scotland’s Information Commissioner is being singularly graced by individuals of integrity and sound process who can command public trust – and an office as important to democracy as this one could not be better served than by such individuals.