Way back in August I made a complaint to the Data Protection Officer of the SNP and received a response from Patrick Grady, now Patrick Grady MP, stating that my complaint would be responded to “within the prescribed timescales”.
In October having received no response I contacted Patrick Grady MP again, pointing out that there were no prescribed timescales and requesting an update. Again, no response.
On 8th October 2015 this was referred to the Office of the Information Commissioner, where I stated that “Having repeatedly contacted Mr Patrick Grady regarding the above issue, beyond the initial acknowledgement I have been given no response, update or indication that any investigation has taken place for a period of almost 3 months.”
In November 2015 I was contacted by the Office of the Information Commissioner, stating that they had now contacted the SNP and had given them 30 days to respond.
On 22nd December 2015, on the final day of the ultimatum, the SNP responded, and as the offices of the Information Commission were closed over the holidays there was a short delay in passing on the response.
I was disappointed in the response in way and contacted the Case Officer for clarification. While I fully expected the SNP to find itself “not guilty” as regards the possible Data Protection breach, I was surprised that the flagrant disregard to responding to legitimate concerns by the party was not taken more seriously. I was told that unfortunately as (unlike a subject access request) there is no prescribed timescale in place for such a request there was little that could be done, although I do not that my concerns will be kept on file to help build a picture of the SNP’s information rights practices. It was also remarked that the SNP’s behaviour could be described as “not best customer practice“.
The SNP’s code of silence and stonewalling will only carry it so far. The gagging of MP’s and councillors such as Phil Boswell MP over tax issues or Sophia Coyle over homophobic comments will only work so long as we the public allow it to work. I’d recommend that anyone with concerns about the SNP’s data protection practices should do something about it. Be prepared for it to take some time though. The fact that in this case the SNP were only willing to respond after being forced to by the watchdog speaks volumes for how they treat our rights to be treated fairly. Every time I hear Nicola Sturgeon speak about fairness or transparency the phrase which comes to mind is ‘You hypocrite…’