MINISTRY PLAYS DUMB OVER COST INFORMATION
A Freedom of Information request to the UK Ministry of Justice has thrown up confusion over responsibility for the under fire Calman Commission after the UK Government claimed to have no information on its cost.
The answer comes despite minutes of the Commission from 2008 stating the Ministry of Justice was contributing £500,000 and the Scotland Office confirming that contribution in a parliamentary answer in July 2009.
The FoI request asked the Ministry of Justice – the department with responsibility for constitutional affairs “what the costs have been of the Calman Commission”. The Ministry has replied saying “the information you have requested is not held by the MoJ”.
However in minutes of the Commission’s Engagement group from May 2008 it states; “The Secretariat advised that a budget of around £500K had been allocated for the work of the Commission by the Ministry of Justice.”
The Commission’s report has come under pressure this week as more economists challenged the tax proposals and claimed they could be damaging to Scotland’s economy.
At £614,000 in total the cost of the exclusive Calman Commission tops that of the National Conversation which is considering all constitutional options and is currently holding open meetings with the public across Scotland.
Commenting on the response from the Ministry of Justice SNP MSP Linda Fabiani said:
“It now seems no one wants to take responsibility for the Calman Commission.
“For the UK Government to claim in a Freedom of Information response that it doesn’t have information when it clearly does is despicable.
“The UK Government is trying to walk away as fast as possible in the hope people will forget Calman ever existed. There is clearly no desire in London to transfer powers to Scotland - if there is, what are we waiting for.
“The UK Government refuses to accept that it paid for this report and is now refusing to transfer the recommended powers that everyone agrees on such as gun control, drink driving and road safety.
“Meanwhile Calman’s recommendation on taxation faces continued criticism from leading economists and has been exposed as damaging to Scotland’s economic prosperity – regardless of whether taxes go up or down.
"With Unionist parties lining up to kick Calman into the long grass it is only the the open and inclusive National Conversation that is listening to the views of all of Scotland on constitutional change.”
SNP MP and Constitutional Affairs Spokesman Pete Wishart said;
"I will be investigating with the Ministry of Justice why they failed to provide clear information to a simple request.
"For them to deny information about the cost of Calman, when the minutes of the Commission record a £500,000 contribution is a disgrace