Tel/Fax: 01620 892489
Head of Public Records Policy Branch,
Constitution & Parliamentary Secretariat,
Freedom of Information Unit,
I thank you for your
letter of 22nd ult. and hope you had an enjoyable time over the Festive
I enclose a copy of
a letter I sent to the Minister for Justice
on 30th May 2005 as all correspondence since stems from that letter.
Byrne, as officials have now been forced to admit, agreed in her letter
of 15th June 2005 that the Public Records Act 1958 does not apply
legislatively to Scotland but that the terms
of the Act are applied to the management of Scotland’s
public records on an administrative basis. Ms. Byrne informed
me that this was the policy of the Scottish Executive
as a whole, not the Lord Advocate in isolation,
so there was no question of him acting outside the terms of his authority.
Stating that it was
the policy of the Scottish Executive in
no way explained where the authority came from to permit them to adopt
such a policy. The Lord Advocate may
be following the policy of the Scottish Executive
but it is open to question whether he is indeed acting within the
law when there appears to be no
legal basis for the action taken.
[Ed ~ The Public Petitions Committee
of the Scottish Parliament conveniently
chose to follow
the instructions of the Lord Advocate
when confronted with my (William Burns')
Ms. Byrne seems to believe
since the terms of the 1958 Act have been used in Scotland
for some time and brought to Scotland the
“good practice” operating throughout the rest of the UK
that I should be satisfied with her explanation. As is
clear from further correspondence this is not the case.
On 6th July 2005 Ms.
Byrne wrote “the Scottish Executive
is not required to enact legislation to adopt administrative practices”. She
again pointed out the benefits of the 1958 Act. In my reply
I suggested that she appeared to be saying that there was no limit
to the powers of the Scottish Executive.
I requested an explanation as to why the Westminster Parliament felt
it necessary to pass legislation before applying the powers contained
in the Public Records Act 1958 and yet in Scotland
this was not required. I was also interested in how far these
powers held by the Scottish Executive could
The next letter I received
from Ms. Byrne was dated 7th October 2005. She suggested
I contact the UK Government to enquire why they felt it necessary
to legislate in 1958. I replied on the 14th. I pointed
out, which should have been clear to her, that I had no interest whatsoever
in why the UK Government felt it necessary to legislate in 1958.
I wished to know how the Scottish Executive
was able to take powers that required an Act of Parliament before
these same powers could be applied in England
and Wales. I referred to her
letter of 15th June 2005 in which she wrote, “However I should
clarify that this is the policy of the Scottish Executive
as a whole”, and asked where the authority came from to impose
a 100-year closure order on 106 productions
to the Cullen Inquiry into the Dunblane
tragedy since the Scottish Executive
did not exist at that time. I closed that letter with, “I
am a Scot residing in Scotland so the decisions
of the Scottish Executive can have an effect
on my life. I therefore feel that I have every right to know
where the authority comes from to allow the Executive
to make decisions without reference to any elected body as you state
they are entitled to do in your letter of 6th July 2005.”
You, as all officials
I have communicated with since November 1999 have done, took up a
lot of space in your letter of 4th November 2005 describing administrative
processes, but nowhere do you clearly state where the authority came
from to allow closure.
You stated that in 1962
the Scottish Office decided to apply the
same closure periods as were applied in England. Where
is it written that the Scottish Office had
the right to do so?
You claim that records
management is essentially a routine administrative matter but where
is that written down and what guidelines describe what is a “routine
You describe the meeting
at which the decision was taken to apply a 100-year closure
but not where the authority came from to allow closure. Lord
a letter to me wrote “those attending that meeting
did not have the authority, individually or collectively, to impose
closure. Since the decision to impose closure was taken at that
meeting and Lord Cullen has made clear that
those attending that meeting had no authority to impose closure where
did the authority come from?
In your letter of 22nd
ult. you wrote, “it would not be appropriate for me to comment
on the authority of those who imposed a 100-year closure
on the Dunblane Inquiry papers.”
This after arguing at length that the Lord Advocate,
the Scottish Office and the Scottish
Executive have every right to administer routine matters
as they see fit.
In that case is it true
that you do not consider the closure of the Dunblane Inquiry
papers to be a “routine administrative matter” and that
closure required specific authority?
I look forward to hearing
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W Scott wrote to his MSP, John Home Robertson,
on 8 February 2006 with extremely relevant information. In characteristically
political fashion, Mr Robertson merely "noted"
the content. Why are all our political representatives frightened
to stand up and be counted on our behalf? Mr Scott
wrote back to Mr Robertson on 20 February
2006. The information he gave him is summarised below.
He was assured it can be verified. He also let him know that
he thought he would have done more than just note the contents, adding
that he trusts he will now give it some serious thought.
On the evening of the
day of the [Dunblane] Massacre,
Dr Beattie, a consultant paediatrician,
informed journalists at a news conference that he did not see Thomas
Hamilton’s body. This he confirmed in his
evidence to the Inquiry when he stated that
there was one dead body in the gymnasium and it was that of Mrs. Mayor
body was there later in the day as it was examined by an explosives
expert. To try to solve the problem of the "missing body",
Mr Scott wrote to Dr Beattie,
asking him if he could confirm that the body of Thomas
Hamilton was not in the gym. This confirmation
was in accordance with what he appeared to tell newspaper reporters
and what he testified at the Inquiry.
Although Mr Scott
was not sure where Dr Beattie was working,
he wrote to Yorkhill Hospital where he knew he was a one-time member
of the staff. No reply was received so he did not know
whether Dr Beattie had moved or the letter
had not been delivered. Mr Scott sent
reminders. When there was still no response he sent an e-mail
to Yorkhill containing a request to whoever read it to please inform
him if Dr Beattie was on the staff or not.
This produced a most
aggressive response from Dr Beattie.
He threatened William W Scott with harassment
charges if he or any of his "group" made any attempt to
correspond with him again. A threat of "harassment"?
Mr Scott sent him but one letter.
There would have been no reminders if Dr Beattie
had shown a little common courtesy and answered it. And
how did he come up with the comment of Mr Scott's
"group"? His letter gave no indication that others
were involved. He disclosed that he did in fact send copies
of correspondence to a number of people, who will also receive a copy
of his latest letter, but in no way can they be described as a group
working together. [Ed. ~ Whether these
characters like it or not, the common good is more important than
personal idiosyncrysies. In any event, what judge could now
support idle threats from people trying to suppress the truth in the
light of the monumentally larger concern that is the Cullen
also said that his reason for not replying was because he did not
want to fuel conspiracy theories. Mr Scott
never mentioned any suspicions. He just requested an answer
to a simple question. If the body was there in the gym at 10.15am
many, but not all, of the theories surrounding Hamilton’s
death could not be sustained. However, since Dr
Beattie stated the body wasn’t there then it must
be asked why was it moved.
Beattie was no help, William W Scott
wrote to Mr. Haire, a member of the first ambulance crew to arrive
at the school. He phoned Mr Scott
and had a long friendly conversation. Right at the start he
told Mr Scott that his superior at Callandar
had told him he could give him no information due to the terms of
the Data Protection Act. Mr. Haire
gave the impression that he would like to help and before ringing
off gave Mr. Scott the name and address
of one of his senior officers in Stirling who he thought might be
able to assist him.
Before Mr. Scott
could write to Mr. Wemyss in Stirling, a letter arrived from Mr. Gordon,
the General Manager of the Scottish Ambulance Service
in East Central Scotland, informing Mr. Scott
that he must make no further attempt to speak to Mr. Haire.
Why was Mr Scott's letter sent
from Callandar to the top of the tree in Dundee, bypassing Mr. Wemyss? After
all, Mr. Haire recommended that Mr Scott
should contact Mr Wemyss. Mr Scott
told Mr Gordon that he employed Mr Haire but did not own him. He
agreed, but Mr Scott still did not get an
answer to his question.
In this letter to his
MSP, John Home
Robertson, Mr Scott
posed the question: "Why
are they all being so secretive about the whereabouts of Hamilton’s
The statement written
by the off-duty police officer who was first
on the scene, other than school staff, was not put before the Inquiry,
nor was he called to appear in person. The statement is not
among the papers lodged with the National Archives of
Scotland and it was probably intended that it be kept
hidden for a further 90 years; but for whatever reason it was released
by Central Scotland Police.
It is not surprising
that it was not produced as evidence as it states there were two pistols
[Ed. ~ The officer said in his statement to
Central Scotland Police that the guns he
not revolvers.] beside Hamilton’s
body, that he was wearing one holster and that he was dressed in a
dark boiler suit. The evidence presented to the Inquiry
stated there were two pistols and two revolvers, one of which Hamilton
used to shoot himself, four holsters were strapped on and he was wearing
dark corduroy trousers. It would appear
that Hamilton shot himself with a gun that
was not in the gym at the time of his death. Do you
not agree that is a rather difficult thing to do!
The decision to impose
a 100-year closure order was taken at a
meeting on 13th January 1997. At that meeting were the Clerk
to the Inquiry and representatives of the
Scottish Records Office, the Police and
the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.
None of those present or those they were representing had the authority,
individually or collectively, to impose a closure order.
[Ed. ~ According to Hansard,
on 12 May 1998 that a 100-year closure order
would be put on the files. So did this meeting on 13 January
1997 actually take place or was it an invention to allow Cullen
to distance himself from the nonstatutory order?] The
Advocate General for Scotland has stated categorically that “under
Scots law there is no legislation which provides for a hundred year
closure.” Baroness Clark of Calton QC
goes on to explain that understanding of the way in which closure
of public records is operated is not the same as legislation.
If this is the case, and one would think that the Advocate General
would be fully aware of Scots law, why was a 100-year
closure imposed and why are some papers still to be
hidden for a further 90 years?
~ To read exchanges between the Lord Advocate
and John Home Roberston MSP and William
W Scott and John Home Robertson MSP,
To read the letter from the Chairman of the Scottish Affairs
Committee Mohammad Sarwar MP
and William W Scott, click