Friday, 8 August 2014

FREEDOM (of information)!

We at Sign for Scotland have been busy making our first freedom of information request. On the 5th of July we sent a message to the Scotland Office asking them how many BSL copies of their anti-independence leaflet 'What staying in the United Kingdom means for Scotland' had been issued (the one that was sent to every household in Scotland at our expense).
This was inspired by the BBC's FoI request made in May regarding the number of copies of the White Paper on Independence that had been ordered in BSL. The answer (which we didn't receive until today - the 8th of August) might surprise you:
'What staying in the United Kingdom means for Scotland'
Number of BSL copies: 0 (zero)

Back in May, John Denerley, from Deaf Connections, stated that the number of BSL copies of 'Scotland's Future', the White Paper on Independence, had been "...ridiculous, shocking, and frankly embarrassing...". We wonder if the BBC will seek a similar quote from him regarding the UK Government's 0 availability (there wasn't even an option on-line to view or request a BSL version).
As reported on Newsnet Scotland, the information from the Scottish Government's White Paper has been available in a number of locations and formats. At that time, the BSL summary of Scotland's Future, which is over 2 hours and 20 minutes long, had received over 500 plays, and videos from ourselves and Scottish Deaf Independence had received even more.

But the UK Government's lack of consideration for the Deaf isn't the main issue. The topic that should be our focus is in regards to the BBC. Three questions emerge:
First - Did the BBC make a Freedom of Information request regarding Deaf access to the UK Government's referendum material as they did for the Scottish Government's?
Second - If not, why not? Freedom of Information requests are not difficult and had produced a story that featured prominently on their news website and was commented on widely. If they did, then why did they withhold this information from the public, and who was involved in the decision?

And finally - Now that they are fully aware, will the BBC give this story the same prominence as they gave to their anti-independence report? If not, why not?

You can view the Scotland Office's full response below. Despite the date showing as the 28th of July, we only received this letter by email today after requesting an update earlier this week. As of yet, no physical copy has been delivered.

Unlike the BBC, we are happy to offer them the right of reply to our article.
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