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Former Premier Scott backs Information Commissioner over access to records

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Alex Scott, former Premier, speaks on his time in office as part of the “Conversations with a Former Premier” interview series.

A former Premier has backed the head of the Information Commission in her efforts to protect public access to information.

Alex Scott, speaking as part of a new interview series, Conversations with a Former Premier with Heather Whalen, described Pati as “fundamental”.

“The umbrella approach I brought to the office of premier was that we serve the public, so therefore the archives, information, is really public property,” he said.

“We are the keepers of the archive. We manage the archive. We utilise the information, but that information should be available to the public.”

He highlighted the ongoing case between the Attorney-General and the Information Commissioner, saying in his view the Commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez was right to fight for the public's right to access to the information.

“She should push and advocate for the public because that is their information,” he said. “It’s not just the public should know general news items and the information that is available to everyone.

“There is a fundamental precept in a democracy that the populous, the people, have their rights, and as a government agent and the premier I had a responsibility to honour those rights.”

In the interview, recorded early this year, Mr Scott warned: “I think that the Government may be slipping back to an ‘us and them’, and if you lose that communication link, you lose the respect of the public you serve, and then you can lose the Government.”

Mr Scott, who served as Premier from 2003 to 2006, said he came into politics through his friendship with the late LF Wade and became leader as a “compromise” between groups within the Progressive Labour Party.

“I think the PLP was in danger of failing if they did not resolve that divide at that time, and I think that the country was very much at sixes and sevens at that time,” he said.

“When I left, the economic was probably in one of its best positions – not just from my efforts but from a consortium of initiatives.

“I think that the PLP was in a better position when I left, not just because of me but because they had time to take a deep breath, re-evaluate where they were, and what came out of it was at least a more unified approach to governance than before.”

Mr Scott noted that weeks into his time as premier, the island was hit by Hurricane Fabian, which he said “tore the island apart”.

However, he said its impact also served as a “deus ex machina” to help bring a divided island together.

“We had a common goal,” he said. “Out of that came a social agenda. Out of that came initiatives. Out of that came momentum for us to go forward.”

Mr Scott said he leveraged his political capital earned in the wake of Hurricane Fabian – and public confidence from the island’s recovery – to launch discussions of independence and sovereignty.

He said he sought to make the discussion non-political, but he saw his support fall as a result.

“The concept of this little island going it alone – we have been made to believe that it is a mission impossible,” Mr Scott said. “It is a mission that is mandatory.”

The interview with Mr Scott, which is available now on YouTube, and will be screened on CITV on December 4.

The Conversations with a Former Premier interview series is set to continue with interviews with Sir John Swan and Ewart Brown.

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Published November 25, 2022 at 7:57 am (Updated November 25, 2022 at 8:26 am)

Former Premier Scott backs Information Commissioner over access to records

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