Government warned over ‘secrecy culture’
PROPOSALS FOR A controversial landfill site for toxic chemicals in Central Scotland were published on Christmas Eve, to discourage the public from making objections Or even seeing the plans, according to Friends Of The Earth Scotland (FOE),
A member of the public can object to a planning application, providing they do it within fourteen days. But anyone who wished to view the revised plan for dumping waste from Grangemouth chemicals factories at Bo'ness, near Falkirk, would have had trouble even seeing them. They were published just before Christmas, in Falkirk Council offices which promptly closed for the festive period.
As the Government prepares legislation on the freedom of information, the action by Scotia Environmental Services is seen by environmentalists as demonstrating the extent of the culture of secrecy which any bill will have to tackle.
The case is just one example of the need for a comprehensive freedom of information act, according to FoE director Kevin Dunion. 'Access to environmental information should be made easier under a European directive passed in 1993/ he said. ’However our experience is extremely chequered. We've found confusion in Government agencies and met With obstruction from some staff.
Dunion believes that even with goodwill on the part of the Government, the Freedom Of Information Act will have its work cut out. ’They are trying to overturn several
hundred years of a culture of secreCy.
'Companies like SES, which play fast and loose with the letter of the law, but outside the spirit of it, are a problem which the Government needs to address,’ he argued.
FOE, which regularly runs into problems gaining access to environmental information, has just issued a new publication ’Protecting Our Environment: A Citizen’s GUide’, which aims to inform the public about what action they can take.
However, the Government’s white paper on freedom of information has received an enthusiastic response from the Campaign For The Freedom Of Information, which has lobbied for such legislation for thirteen years.
'We have reservations about the proposed fees and some of the exemption clauses, but overall the white paper is a major step fOrward,’ said researcher Andrew Ecclestone.
The white paper covers privatised utilities, and private bodies working on contracted-out functions, as well as Government departments, NHS bodies, quangos and local authorities. An independent commissroner adjudicate in cases of dispute or delay in provrding information.
'In most cases, an organisation Will have to prove disclosme w0u|d cause substantial harm if information is to be withheld. That is tougher than any other freedom of information act anywhere in the world,’ Eccleston explained.
’However, the fine print will make a big difference, and we will have to see
Dunion: claims tackling state secrecy needs more than goodwill
what form the bill takes when it is published in the Spring,’ he added.
A spokesman for SES denied they were playing 'fast and loose' With planning rules. 'Under no circum- stances would we be involved in timing this in a way which WOuId cause any difficulty,' he said
'It is nonsense to suggest that the timing had anything to do With the Christmas period. Anyone who wants to see the detail can see it at the planning office at any time, and the fourteen-day rule for objections is not strictly applied,’ he claimed.
Scoring a Jack pot
Poetic justice! Jack Straw hoist with his own petard, named and shamed, zero tolerated. Just a wee bit too poetic though, wasn’t it? The Mirror was out for a stitch-up, the boy took the bait and confidentiality went out the window. Still, the English tablords must have found it less easy to gloat when the Scottish press got to reveal the culprit's identity.
But the way all the media presented the story, putting Jack Straw's name before William's in their reports, only goes to show what a fake, tacky business it all was. Still, there's nae smoke Without a wee chunk of blow, eh?
Stan Vaughan Thornwood Avenue Glasgow
38 "IE LIST 8—22 Jan 1998 t
After reading The List's four-star review, I took my teenage son to see the lS-rated film Starship Troopers
Starship Troopers: 'appalling im
last weekend. He is an aVid reader of the comic strips your reViewer mentions, but both of us left the
? cinema nauseated by the extremity of
VIOIGITCC we had Witnessed Many of the audience were laughing uproariously, and in fact, the only way to cope With such appalling imagery is to dismiss it as best you can. However, the sequence in which a live man has his brains sucked out through the top of his head Will remain With me for some time
I accept yOur reViewer's point about the film's anti-war message and comments on the possibility of a futuristic police state. However, the expert execution — which conVinCingly simulates , disembowelment, diSiriemberment and decapitation over and over again — only worsens the numbing effect.
It seems unlikely that this film would have been awarded an 18 certificate Without cuts even a few years ago In an age of increasing public concern about the effects of Violent entertainment on young
g Beermats are absorbing art
THE WINE-SIPPING, big-spending image of art-collecting receives a knock this month With the launch of a new kind of art portfolio
Instead of wandering round galleries With a large cheque-book, locals will be able to collect a 'beer mat’ book by vrSrting local pubs.
Edited by author Duncan McLean, the book features writing and art from writers including Alan Warner, Alison I Flett and Todd McEwan, and is part of a range of multiple art works on sale at the redeveloped Highland Printinakeis Gallery which opens on 24 ; January The gallery shop Will also feature limited edition Y-fronts bearing the legend ’nc-W pants for a new Scotland'
I Now ie-titled arr tip, the gallery has been re-designed by two Glasgow- trained architects who have recently i set up in partnership in Edinburgh. 'j Charlie Hussey and Charlie Sutherland j trained at the Mackintosh School of ! Architecture but subsequently moved : to work in London.
i They made a conscious deCision to j return as Hussey explained: 'Scotland is i a fantastic country to work in,' he said.
‘There is a sense that things are beginning to happen here, With a more 5 enlightened attitude to new buildings'
Sutherland and Hussey have a track ; ; record in arts-related projects and are
: also currently working on a feaSIbility study for a proposed dance institute in ? Glasgow. (Stephen Naysmitli)
i people, it seems incredible that such relentless brutalisation of the human i body should be presented as entertainment suitable for teenagers. I ‘ can only conclude that the Board of Film Classification is being influenced by the extremely wealthy and powerful multinationals which distribute such films Rosemary Peters, Netherby Road, Edinburgh
Letters page . The List Magaiine 14 High Stree
Edinburgh EH1 1TB
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org fax: 0131 557 8500
Please include your name and address