There is a “culture of secrecy” at the heart of Humza Yousaf’s government, Anas Sarwar has claimed.
Speaking during FMQs, the Scottish Labour leader pointed to data which he said proved ministers are “riding roughshod” over Freedom of Information laws.
Last year, the Scottish Government pledged to improve its performance around freedom of information (FOI) requests in response to concerns from the Information Commissioner.
But the newly-released figures reveal the number of FOI requests being passed to Scottish ministers has risen by nearly five times in the past three years.
In 2022/23, 490 FOIs were marked as requiring a ministerial decision, up from 101 in 2020.
“There is a culture of secrecy and cover-up at the heart of this dysfunctional and incompetent SNP Government,” Sarwar told MSPs.
“New data we are publishing today shows the number of FOI requests the Scottish Government has passed on to ministers for approval has risen fivefold.
“Once a case goes to ministers to sign off, or to cover up, waiting times double, with one in every six FOIs breaching legally binding response times.
“So can I ask the First Minister, what has he got to hide?”
The First Minister accused Sarwar of “desperation”, saying he was “trying to throw as much mud as he possibly can to hope that things stick”.
The SNP leader insisted his government was more transparent than the UK.
He said his Government has ambitious targets for FOIs and he has already promised to improve performance, saying he wants to “ensure that we are the most transparent Government on these islands”.
Sarwar went on to ask the First Minister about the outcome of a bullying investigation into former minister Fergus Ewing and whether this could be released.
Yousaf said the Government must adhere to legal advice and will take a “responsible approach”.
The Scottish Labour leader also made a reference to the police investigation into the SNP’s finances, which has seen a luxury campervan seized.
Sarwar said: “The SNP are taking Scots for a ride and we don’t even get the luxury of enjoying the campervan.
“FOI laws are flouted, dissent is suppressed and problems are swept under the carpet.”
The First Minister referred to recent opinion polling, saying: “I saw Anas Sarwar celebrating polls that one again put the Labour Party in second place.
“Celebrating being a loser, that sums up Anas Sarwar and the Scottish Labour Party.”
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