‘Listen, let the people petition and be heard’

In September of this year it will be 5 years since I petitioned the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to introduce a Sunshine Act for Scotland.

The evidence gathered for my petition confirmed that existing Scottish Government guidance was not being followed.

The Scottish Government commissioned an independent consultation with the Scottish public.  The results of this consultation were published on the 22 March 2018:

The majority view of the Scottish public consulted was that sunshine legislation is necessary.

On the 22nd March 2018, two years on from this consultation, I undertook a peaceful protest outside the Scottish Parliament. I was interviewed by the BMJ the same day:

Two years to the day after the results of the public consultation were made known,  I made Freedom of Information requests to all 14 regional NHS Boards and to Healthcare Improvement Scotland and the Scottish Medicines Consortium.

Within the statutory FOI time period,  11 out of the 14 regional NHS Boards replied.

Less than a half (45.5%) of these Boards have a central register of interests for all staff.

Only two out of the eleven NHS Boards that replied (18%) had a register for all staff that the public could access.

[Healthcare Improvement Scotland has no central register for all staff and whilst the Scottish Medicines Consortium has registers for “members” these registers are not currently open to the public].

Dr Ben Goldacre has been looking at this matter in NHS England, and in the same week as my protest he stated: “We found extensive evidence that NHS Trusts are simply chaotic about disclosure, which is why we need a UK equivalent of the US Sunshine Act, where it’s just done, simply, in one place” [28 March 2018]


The following poem by Liz Lochead, former Makar for Scotland, is inscribed inside the Scottish parliament building:

On the 18th April 2018, Scotland’s First Minister responded, as follows, to questioning by the Convener of the Petitions Committee, Johann Lamont, MSP:

The First Minister offered reassurance that the Scottish Government pays attention to all petitions raised, and has a “systematic” approach to acting upon them. This has not been my experience. Nearly 5 years on since I raised my petition, and 2 years on since the public were consulted, the evidence demonstrates that there has been no meaningful improvement in relation to transparency of competing interests in NHS Scotland.

It would seem to me that the Scottish Government may have heard the Scottish people but at the same time has failed to listen to them.