Jul 142017
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

As small businesses look to compete, grow and develop in today’s fast-paced digital world, they need first-class connectivity that will support their business needs today and far in to the future, one of Scotland’s leading experts in digital industry has said.
According to Graeme Gordon (pictured), Chief Exec of Aberdeen-headquartered IFB – a leading managed service and data network provider – keeping apace of the digital transformation will ensure firms are not overtaken by competitors, giving opportunities to increase productivity and future-proof their businesses as the thirst for greater bandwidth continues to grow.

“Digital technology is developing at rapid speeds, and although small businesses may find it hard to keep up, we’re constantly working on new solutions to ensure all businesses, regardless of size, can stay ahead and have access to the best digital connectivity for their business and to suit their needs,” comments Graeme.

“There is now a new wave of full fibre digital infrastructure available in Aberdeen and Edinburgh which provides superior connectivity speeds, and opens up greater opportunities for businesses. World-class connectivity is the key to success for running any business in the digital age. That’s why we’re constantly striving to meet businesses’ digital needs now and for decades to come.”

Powered by this new full fibre infrastructure, IFB Ultrafast offers lightning speeds to support businesses and help them grow and take up new opportunities that the digital economy offers. It’s a platform for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) – the backbone of Scotland’s economy – to be part of the latest tech transformation with connectivity that is fast, reliable and fit for purpose, as speeds and connectivity take on even more relevance to the way business is done.

An increasing number of everyday business services and applications are now online and used as a matter of routine, these cover banking, accounting, sales tools, customer management systems, voice telephony and critical data backup and recovery systems   – all of which need to be accessed reliably and securely to support  the day-to-day workings of all modern businesses.

Graeme adds:

“Connectivity is at the heart of how all businesses operate and the next stage has arrived. This state-of-the-art full fibre digital infrastructure provides blistering connectivity speeds to support SMEs now and moving forward.”

The ultrafast network is delivered by IFB and powered by CityFibre in Aberdeen and Edinburgh – two of Scotland’s ‘Gigabit Cities’. It is being hailed as an affordable independent network offering superior speeds that leads to increased efficiency and productivity by dramatically accelerating the digital capabilities of business, providing quick data transfers between locations for backup and recovery.

To find out more call 0845 270 2101 or email geton@ifb.net

Aberdeen-based IFB is one of Scotland’s leading managed service and data network providers. For over 20 years IFB has been providing critical connectivity and ICT services to the UK market place. Its key markets include the demanding on and offshore oil and gas sector, professional services and public and third sector. It designs, deploys, manages and supports key services including Cloud, Backup and Recovery, Internet Access, Networks, Hosting, Workplace Recovery and Telecoms through national, multi-Gbit/s network that links Aberdeen, Edinburgh and London points of presence.

IFB can be contacted on 0845 270 2101 or geton@ifb.net. More about the company can be found at www.ifb.net

CityFibre is the UK’s builder of Gigabit Cities and the national alternative provider of wholesale fibre network infrastructure. It has major metro duct and fibre footprints in 42 cities across the UK and a national long distance network that connects these cities to major data-centres across the UK and to key peering points in London.

The company has an extensive customer base spanning service integrators, enterprise and consumer service providers and mobile operators. Providing a portfolio of active and dark fibre services, CityFibre’s networks address 28,000 public sites, 7,800 mobile masts, 280,000 businesses and 4 million homes.

CityFibre is based in London, United Kingdom, and its shares trade on the AIM Market of the London Stock Exchange (AIM: CITY).

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May 192017
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

One of the biggest shake ups of European privacy legislation which is expected to have a significant impact on the way business is done comes into force in 12 months’ time.

It’s going to have a huge impact on how businesses store and process data and carries tough penalties and hefty fines for breaches.

The Government will implement the General Data Protection Regulation and it is expected that the UK will continue to comply with GDPR after Brexit – so all businesses should be assessing how they use personal data and how this legislation will affect the sector in which they operate.

Advanced planning is key to ensuring compliance with the new legislation which comes into force from 25 May 2018, according to Austen Clark, managing director of Clark Integrated Technologies.

 “The changes that will come with the 2018 deadline will have implications for businesses of all sizes that handle the personal data of EU residents, regardless of location,” Mr Clark states.

“The GDPR is going to have a huge impact on how businesses store and process data and they need to act now to make sure they are properly prepared for this major overhaul of data protection legislation which will impact on us all. Dedicating time to this now will ensure businesses have procedures in place to be able to comply with the new regulation.

“This isn’t just for big businesses – a gym that offers a members’ loyalty scheme or a one-person chiropractor that asks patients to complete a wellbeing form will have to ensure that personal data is stored in line with the new regulations and not breach them.”

GDPR will directly apply in EU countries and replaces ageing European and national data protection legislation, with companies given until until May next year to adopt the measures and become compliant.

Influenced by technological advances, it introduces new accountability obligations, stronger rights and ongoing restrictions on international data flows. GDPR seeks to protect individuals whose personal data is handled by companies. Data processing refers to the handling, storage, evaluation, reference or general use of information relating to individuals. Businesses should only be collecting necessary data and discarding it when it is no longer required to protect data subject rights.

So an online retailer running a small e-commerce site that holds customers’ personal details is subject to GDPR regulations. And any company or individual providing marketing, IT, accountancy or business support that may have access to a wealth of client and customer data needs to ensure this is collected, stored and protected in specific ways.

One of the biggest considerations of the new regulations is ensuring sensitive data is handled correctly.

Government help to prepare for the regulation is available, with webinars, training courses and data flow audits and Mr Clark suggests a good starting point is to carry out a gap analysis of current processing in line with GDPR.

“Understand what data you hold, how you are using it, and make sure that you are practising good data hygiene by limiting access to data to only those who need it, and ensuring that authentication protocols are up-to-scratch for those users,” Mr Clark advises.

“Businesses should also consider deleting data that is no longer required so that it does not become an unnecessary risk.”

Clark IT is already working with clients to assess how GDPR will impact on them and the sector in which they operate, to guide them through the complexities of the legislation and to ensure they become fully compliant. The IT specialists can take clients through the process from start to finish using its unique portal and working with partners to cover legal, datacentre, insurance and finance matters.

While it may seem like a daunting process, GDPR should not be viewed as unnecessary red tape says Mr Clark, who predicts that the legislation has the ability to bring benefits to both businesses and individuals.

Mr Clark states:

“This creates a new single data protection act, and has scope to bring increased consistency to data protection practices, eliminating problems arising from the existence of different national variations.

“There are enhanced powers given to data protection authorities in tackling non-compliance and it will also be easier for individuals to claim against data controllers where their data privacy has been infringed.

 “GDPR will also give individuals greater control and rights over their personal data. As a result, individuals will be able to request that businesses delete their no longer necessary or accurate personal data.

“The regulation could also prove to be an advance in the war against cybercrime, given mandatory breach notifications. Taking GDPR seriously will see businesses invest in, and demonstrate, high levels of security which could in turn raise customer trust.”

Clark IT based near Turriff in Aberdeenshire is one Scotland’s leading independent providers of managed ICT solutions with a broad range of corporate and commercial clients not only in the North-east but across Scotland and beyond.

Its clients benefit from the specialist knowledge of its 26-strong workforce to support their systems and through managed IT services. Clients also benefit from Pro-active IT Support, 24/7 Monitoring, A virtual IT Manager, predictive IT costs and a strategic IT plan tailor-made for their business.

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Apr 202017
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Austen Clark, managing director of Clark Integrated Technologies.

A major UK business survey revealing that a fifth of British businesses have been hacked by cyber criminals hammers home the need for all firms to ramp up their defences against cybercrime.

With only a quarter of firms surveyed by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) saying their business has security measures in place to guard against hacking, Austen Clark of Clark Integrated Technologies warns that too many firms could be exposing themselves to the very real danger of being hit by cybercrime.

Mr Clark, managing director of the Turriff-based ICT firm, says that the BCC report published this week drives home need for all businesses ramp up security defences to protect against hacking – and there are simple, tangible actions that all organisations can follow to reduce their risk of becoming a victim.

Larger companies – defined as those with at least 100 staff – are more susceptible to cyber attacks, according to the report, which found that 42% of big businesses had fallen victim to cybercrime, compared with 18% of small companies. Only a quarter (24%) of the survey’s 1,200 respondents said their business had security measures in place to guard against hacking.

Cybercrime can jeopardise a firm’s finances, confidence and reputation as well as causing disruption to business and productivity, warns Mr Clark, adding that while data breaches at web giant Yahoo, telecoms firm TalkTalk and the dating website Ashley Madison are the ones to grab headlines, the BCC report shows how worryingly widespread the problem is across the economy.

Mr Clark says:

“The internet brings huge opportunities but it also brings risks and every single day businesses face cyber-attacks, with attempts to steal information and money, or disrupt business. It is increasingly important to manage these risks to take advantage of the internet whilst protecting your business.

“As cybercriminals become more determined and better organised, no business can afford to take its eye off the ball. Firms of all sizes, from major corporations to one-man operations, can be victims so all need to be proactive about protecting themselves from cyber-attacks.

“Cybercrime is a bit like the elephant in the room – everyone has heard of it and has stories relating to ‘other businesses’ but no one wants to admit they have been hit by a cyberattack as there seems to be a stigma around being a victim of a scam or con. But reports like this one show the alarming extent of the problem, and its impact on the economy.”

The good news is that there are regular and simple actions that can be taken to help businesses promote good cyber health and Clark IT advises the following:

  1. Install and update anti-virus, anti-spam, and firewall/s
  2. Carry out regular updates on all software and devices
  3.  Change your password regularly (make it difficult to ever guess)
  4.  Secure your network
  5.  Provide clear and concise procedures for handling email, internet and mobile devices
  6.  Train your people in good security practices
  7.  Implement and test backup plans
  8.  Carry out regular security risk assessments to identify important information and systems
  9.  Carry out regular security testing of your business
  10.  Be suspicious – not everyone is a prince with $100 million dollars to send your way

Hacking attacks on British businesses has been said to cost investors £42bn.

Clark IT is based near Turriff in Aberdeenshire and is one Scotland’s leading independent providers of managed ICT solutions with a broad range of corporate and commercial clients not only in the North-east but across Scotland and beyond.

Clark IT clients benefit from the specialist knowledge of the firm’s 26-strong team to support their systems and through managed IT services. Clients also benefit from Pro-active IT Support, 24/7 Monitoring, A virtual IT Manager, predictive IT costs and a strategic IT plan tailor-made for their business.

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Feb 102017
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

As cybercrime continues to be a real and growing menace to business, data backup must become a greater part of continuity planning, according to a Scottish IT business leader.

Data backup is one of the most important areas of IT and yet is also one of the most ignored, Austen Clark of Clark Integrated Technologies has warned ahead of World Backup Day on March 31.

A study last year found that while 36% backup their business data entirely there are 36% who back nothing up at all.

“It is the time put a clear focus on data backup, with man-made cybercrime threats adding another dimension to the risk of data being destroyed or deleted” says Mr Clark.

“We are living in a data-driven society and data is crucial to the smooth running of any business.

“As such backing up data is an essential security measure in today’s computing world. The rise in ransomware attacks which effectively take data hostage from business is just one example of how data loss can happen.  An attack can has financial implications and can cost hundreds or thousands of pounds to businesses.

“Data has gained intrinsic value, either in the staff time needed to generate it or in its relevance to your clients. Data loss, both accidental and due to theft, costs millions of pounds to businesses every year.”

Mr Clark answers some of the most commonly posed questions around the subject.

What is backing up?

Quite simply, backing up is making a copy of your most important files which can be used if the original copy is lost, with the second copy ideally held at different location to the original and be kept in a secure environment.

It is usual for data to be saved to just one place, like ‘My Documents’ on a PC’s hard drive but if this data were accidentally changed or deleted it would take considerable time and expense to restore, with the possibility it may never to be recovered.

Growing numbers of computer viruses have become a risk to business information, and once they have infected your machine they may delete or corrupt your data.

Other common causes of date loss are physical failure of a PC or Server, accidental error, theft or disasters like fire, flood or even simply a dropped glass of water.

Data backup should be specifically tailored for your business.

What data should I backup?

When choosing what data to back up think about what you would need to continue working if your network was damaged.

Clients address, telephone details, your account information, important documents. How long has it taken you to collate all this information and what would happen if you couldn’t get it back once lost? These are the key questions to think about around backing up.

What types of backup are there?

There are various types of backup available and the one you choose will generally depend on time, security and budget. There are a number of frequently used backup solutions to suit business needs.

Memory stick devices tend to be used for smaller backups or mobile users. These are usually removable hard drives and are very popular. The disadvantages of these cheaper devices are that they are at times unreliable and easy to lose or damage due to their small size. The data which is held on them is usually unsecured, meaning if customer details or financial information is held on them this is a greater risk if they were to be lost or used by unauthorised personnel.

When a backup is done the previous backup is overwritten, meaning that only one version of the backup can be stored.

Tape backup is an old industry standard backup medium for businesses with a reasonable amount of data to backup. Daily, weekly and monthly backups can be carried out and as long as you have a managed tape rotation and store the tapes offsite it is a possibility to use this backup solution.

The disadvantages of tape are that it is slow, both to backup and to restore. As it is a manual process it can be subject to error and unless you remember to take the tapes offsite on a daily basis it is subject to the same threats as the original backup.

Online data backup is an efficient choice for small and medium businesses. There is no need to purchase hardware or software, just  a monthly service. Select the data you want to backup and it is transferred in an encrypted format to a high security data centre.

Backups are fully automated, meaning no user intervention is required and you can restore single files or full backups at the click of a mouse. Full protection and availability make this an attractive option. Different versions of backups are available, covering accidental changes made or deletions.

What other considerations are there?

Always test your recovery data – a backup is useless if it cannot restore correctly. Backup regularly, you don’t want to find out the last copy you made is several months old. Keep your backups off site, that way if you do lose data to a fire, flood or theft you know you can retrieve your information.

What about personal devices?

Research shows that 30% of people have never backed up but with 113 phones lost or stolen every two minutes and one in 10 computers infected with a virus each month it is just as important to back up data here too which means it can be saved in the event of a disaster or accident.

 

 

 

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Dec 162016
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

Graeme Gordon, Chief Executive Officer of IFB.

IFB, one of Scotland’s leading managed service and data network providers, has invested a further £1 million to expand its UK network capacities, specifically designed to increase fibre and ultra-high speed connectivity to firms across the UK.

Effective connectivity is critical for strong modern businesses in the digital economy with the demand not just being driven by devices – laptops, tablets and smartphones, but also from more complex data in sensors built in to the environments we live in.

Through its delivery of reliable, resilient, secure and fast connectivity to 1000’s of its SME and Enterprise business customers, IFB has the ability to move large volumes of business data around.

The investment allows IFB to continue this whilst delivering next generation fibre to the premise connections, assisting its customers in competing in today’s modern digital economy.

The investment has been made in new network fibres and hardware infrastructure connecting IFB’s main network and Data Centre hubs in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, London and Stavanger. As well as further enhancing the abilities of IFB’s super connected hubs in the London Internet Exchange (LINX) and at the Scottish Internet Exchange (IXScotland).

IFB also connects to Europe through trans-North Sea fibre connectivity, providing resilience and alternative routing for business data and traffic in and out of the UK. The investment is the next in a series of key developments IFB will be announcing during early 2017.

IFB’s CEO, Graeme Gordon commented:

“We are seeing rapid acceleration in the need, use and creation of diverse types of data from every shape and size of business, these businesses are sharing more data online and using more online applications and services.

“Cloud, or your data in an offsite data centre, means that getting to and from this data requires better connectivity – this ever increasing need will continue to grow as you combine more connected everyday object sensors and devices as part of The Internet of Things and as we start to talk about Industry 4.0 – seamlessly combining physical, digital and cloud based data and applications more of the time.

“We have seen a tenfold increase in bandwidth usage by our clients in the last three years driven by these and other key factors. For some time now our clients have not just been using the connections we provide to simply access the Internet, they are using it to back up and protect their data offsite, for access to online private and public applications, and to move more services such as voice and video calls off of traditional phone lines.

“This data demand calls for much higher, constant bandwidth availability simply to stand still, and in real terms much more bandwidth if you want to grow your market position. IFB’s investment means its clients can become much more productive and effective by creating and consuming the same amount of data in a much smaller period of time, or do much more in the same timescale.

“The enhanced network infrastructure also allows IFB to accelerate and deliver directly to the user, its own range of innovative and affordable cloud, data backup and hosted voice services to meet client’s individual needs.

“A recent survey by The Institute of Directors showed that 57% of its members store their data on owned or leased servers with 30% doing so in the cloud. 60% of members feel an increase in connectivity speed would improve competitiveness and 78% believed their organisation’s productivity would increase by an uplift in speed.”

IFB’s network expansion is part of a major project developed in partnership with one of its long term key technical suppliers, Softcat.

Seán Connolly, Account Director at Softcat says:

“We were delighted to collaborate with IFB to help expand their network capabilities. Our Cisco and Juniper technical design team complimented IFB’s existing skillset to deliver a robust, scalable solution fitting with IFB’s growth plans.”

 

Nov 102016
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Photos by: Grant Anderson - www.grantanderson.me

Tesco Bank’s online hacking attack  has prompted the  boss of a North-east IT firm to issue a stark warning that cybercrime must be taken very seriously – and not just by national and international brands and corporations.

Small and medium enterprises are just as vulnerable and this latest attack is simply another indication of the damage that can be wreaked by hackers, according to Austen Clark, managing director of Clark Integrated Technologies.

Tesco Bank has more than 7 million customers accounts and confirmed “fraudulent criminal activity” was first identified late on Saturday with about 20,000 customers have had money taken from their accounts, with “suspicious activity” identified in another 20,000.

Mr Clark (pictured), a leading voice in the campaign to ensure owners of SMES defend against cyber criminals, has urged businesses to wake up to the realities, saying that the fast-paced and ever changing nature of information technology meaning new potential online risks are arising all the time.

Mr Clark states:

“Many firms may not realise the risk they face from cybercrime. Governments and multinational corporations are large targets but their increase in awareness and investment in defence against cyberattacks are leading to SMEs producing a more viable focus for hackers.

“There is a serious and important message for companies of all sizes that store and handle personal data. People’s personal information must be securely protected at all times.

“While under-reporting is massive, Federation of Small Business statistics show that two thirds of small businesses have been the victim to cybercrime in the past two years, while over a third of small businesses do not report crimes against their business. It’s time for small businesses to sit up, appreciate the potential severity of cyber-attacks and implement good risk management.”

Cloud computing has resulted in work no longer being a place but a task as flexible and home working options increase in the work place. With reliance on multiple internet connected devices only set to rise as well, cybercrime is something that everyone needs to guard against.

“We’ve observed that attackers are exploiting the new opportunities that these new ways of working creates,” Mr Clark continues.

“Attackers are now aware of your weakest locations, such as off-network devices and remote offices, furthermore they now target specific systems and users

“Attackers have the patience to acquire multiple footholds so then can launch an attack at the proper time – and are more motivated and sophisticated than ever to target company’s data. Data has been the driving force behind the latest attacks and is viewed as the world’s newest currency.”

Thankfully, businesses can increase their security online by securing their IT, having up to date malware protection, managing user privileges and working towards educating workers and raising awareness to of good practice.

Some of the most basic measures include:

  • Allow your software and applications to be updated as soon as possible.  These updates often contain vital security updates to protect your devices from new threats.
  • Never use obvious passwords like ‘password’. Add symbols and numbers and a mix of upper and lower case letters to ensure a strong password.
  • Delete and block suspicious e-mails and never open attachments or follow links contained within.
  • Don’t forget smartphones and tablets are at just as much risk from viruses and other forms of malware as computers.  Install anti-virus protection, keep it up to date and use it regularly.
  • Educate your staff on the dangers of cybercrime, both to the business and them as an individual and encourage them to use best practice

Mr Clark concludes:

“The internet brings huge business opportunities but it also brings risks and every single day businesses face cyber-attacks, with attempts to steal information and money, or disrupt business. It is increasingly important to manage these risks to take advantage of the internet whilst protecting your business.

“Focus on protecting data and standardisation and use independent advisers to manage your interests.

“If your business does become the victim of hacking, it’s important to dissect a breach after it has occurred as this can help understand how to prevent it from happening again. However, like most things, prevention is so much better than cure.

“There’s really no such thing as a silver bullet – all systems have weaknesses and vulnerabilities – but there is help and guidance available to help prevent against becoming the next victim of cybercrime.”

Clark IT is based near Turriff in Aberdeenshire and is one Scotland’s leading independent providers of managed ICT solutions with a broad range of corporate and commercial clients across Scotland and beyond.

Clark IT clients benefit from the specialist knowledge of the firm’s 22-strong team to support their systems and through managed IT services. Clients also benefit from Pro-active IT Support, 24/7 Monitoring, A virtual IT Manager, predictive IT costs and a strategic IT plan tailor-made for their business.

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Jul 142016
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

Ballater BridgeAn updated guide will help steer walkers on course to the best of Ballater’s walks. A revised Ballater Paths leaflet maps out a selection of great walks in the area of differing lengths and challenges.

The popular resource has been refreshed after a number of popular pathways were damaged by the floods of late last year.

While some routes have been repaired and restored and are fully accessible, there are a couple that have been removed from the leaflet.

Richard Watts, of Ballater Business Association, says that bringing out a new version of the paths leaflet will help both local people and visitors alike make the most of the area – with the added benefit of showing that Ballater is very much on the mend after the flooding.

“Ballater has great walks right on its doorstep and there’s no doubt that access to the outdoors and to walks and other outdoor activities are among our area’s greatest strengths,” Mr Watts says.

“Through the publication of this new leaflet it shows people how easy it is to access our great walking routes and helps demonstrate that the Ballater area is on the mend and getting over the impact of the flooding caused by Storm Frank.”

The full colour leaflet outlines five routes of varying length, all starting and finishing in Ballater and boasting fine views, an abundance of wildlife and taking in local history too.

They include the 3.2km Craigendarroch Circular with the option of climbing to the summit to enjoy panoramic views towards the Cairngorm mountains including Lochnagar, or the 8km Deeside Way which follows the old Deeside railway line from Ballater towards Cambus o’May.

Each colour-coded route is shown on the map and there are corresponding coloured waymarkers along each route to guide walkers. The leaflet includes a route description to show its length, terrain and level of difficulty.

The revised edition has been produced by the Cairngorm Outdoor Access Trust (COAT), the environmental charity working to promote sustainable public access in the region.

Adam Streeter-Smith Cairngorm National Park Authority Outdoor Access Officer says:

“Ballater has always been blessed with fantastic walks and makes a great base for venturing further afield to explore the Cairngorms National Park.

“The revised Ballater Path Leaflet highlights some of the best local walks taking in great views fascinating local history and wildlife to boot. You can pick up your copy at the Visitor Information Centre in Station Square.”

The free leaflet is available from Ballater Visitor Information Centre located at Albert Memorial Hall, Station Square.

The leaflet is also available at http://cairngorms.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/160630BallaterPaths.pdf

For more details about discovering the region, visit the Active Cairngorms Facebook page or twitter @CNPActive

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Apr 232015
 

With thanks Esther Green, Tricker PR.

Clarklogo2A North-east firm has been ranked among the top managed service providers for IT in the world, according to a global guide published this month.

For the fourth year in a row, Clark Integrated Technologies (IT) features in the annual MSPmentor 501 Global Edition award listings.

And as well as its place in the MSPmentor 501 list, Clark IT appears on the Top 50 for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) for a second time. Only one other Scottish firm has made it onto the EMEA Top 50.

Reflecting on the firm’s achievement, Austen Clark, Managing Director of Clark IT says:

“It is fantastic to be recognised again by MSPmentor, and it is a great achievement for the team to be ranked in the EMEA Top 50 for a second time.

“We are committed to working in partnership with our clients to deliver support and solutions to drive efficiency throughout their business.”

Each year, MSPmentor gathers information for its annual rankings through the participation of managed service providers and IT service providers in their annual survey.

The survey was conducted from December 2014 through January 2015 and rankings are based Penton Technology’s unique criteria for MSPs, such as annual recurring revenues, total revenues and more.

This year the top MSPmentor 501 companies recorded higher recurring revenues than ever before. Combined, the total annual recurring revenues for all of MSPmentor 501 2015 companies was up by 26.5% year over year.

Marcia Parker, Executive Director, Penton Technology Group says:

“We want to congratulate Clark Integrated Technologies and look forward to covering their growth strategies in the year ahead.”

Jessica Davis, Editor in Chief of MSPmentor and Executive Editor at Penton Technology, adds:

“Thank you to all the companies who participated in this year’s MSPmentor 501 survey, and congratulations to the companies that ranked on our lists.”

Clark IT has over 20 years of experience in providing industry leading support and delivering business-class technology. The company’s integrated solutions provide industry leading services, productivity and cost effective IT platforms for business growth.

Clark IT has a client base in both Aberdeen City and Shire, and a recent development has seen the expansion of the company into the Inverness area.

Founded in 1991, Clark Integrated Technologies (Clark IT) is one of Scotland’s leading independent providers of managed ICT solutions to a broad range of corporate and commercial clients across Scotland and beyond.

With a wealth of technological and commercial experience, supported by an established reputation, Clark IT offers clients reliable and honest strategic advice on all aspects of Information and Communications Technology.

For more information, see the firm’s website at www.clark-it.com

Dec 132013
 

You might think that if someone came onto your land, damaged goods and removed property – and you had a video which could hold vital evidence, the police would want to look at the tape. You would be wrong, if you were called David Milne and living on the Menie Estate. On behalf of David Milne, Suzanne Kelly tried to find out why there was no follow up and why no one would so much as touch the videotape.

TrumpoliceAfter waiting several months for information requests and a Scottish Information Commissioner review, all we know is the information is too sensitive and too secret to reveal.

Put yourself in David Milne’s place. You’re living in a beautiful, protected environment; a sparsely populated coastal area north of Aberdeen. Then, Donald Trump arrives, with plans for a massive development (two golf courses, hundreds of homes, a clubhouse and hotel), and includes the homes and property of you and your neighbours in his development plan.

The national and local governments welcome Trump, and his promises, with open arms.

Next, the police create a special policy for policing the area; they claim to want to deter and detect crime at Menie. Security Guards then appear, randomly demanding identification from fellow residents. They spy on properties from their vans, and signs warning of CCTV recording go up.

Gates are erected and locked shut. One of your main access roads, formerly a well maintained dirt road is turned into an impassable rutted mess, undoubtedly due in part to construction vehicles. Months go by before it is repaired.

Next, Trump claims in the press that his property is being vandalised (which makes you wonder just why his security guards are watching the residents while vandals caused damage).

Police start to visit your neighbours, the Forbes Family, and eventually arrest Michael Forbes for taking property markers from land he is using and believes to be his – he is charged, but the case is later dropped.

Journalists you’ve met and have talked with are arrested and charged with ‘breach of the peace’. Their offence seems to have been asking the site manager when the residents can expect their water back on – it had been off for 7 days.

Photographer Alicia Bruce is dissuaded from making a police complaint although a violent-tempered Trump groundskeeper has threatened her and threatened to smash her camera.

In October 2010 someone has gone onto your property, caused damage, and removed property; someone who just might be linked to the Trump development – which soon erects a cheap fence and sends you the bill for it.  You have a video which shows some, or part of, the potentially criminal activity.

You report the matter to the police. Surely, given their area policing policy, they will be swiftly investigating, and bringing someone to justice.

Only, the police are letting the matter drop.

michael-and-policeWho decided the incident wasn’t worth following up? Why wouldn’t the police look at a video showing the possible criminal activity, if they were willing to charge Forbes with theft and journalists with breach of the peace? How can a petty removal and return of border flags be worth an arrest, and actual damage to your property not be important?

You want answers, and a freedom of information request is launched with Grampian Police.  The police then decide to answer some, but far from all of your questions.

You ask them to reconsider; you ask them for an internal review. You still don’t get the answers.

The next step is to approach the Scottish Information Commissioner’s office. Months go by, and one or two emails ask further clarifications of you.  Then the decision comes out.

There is some good news – information will (eventually) be released concerning correspondence on area incidents.  But the reasoning and procedures used to stop the police investigation are not forthcoming. This is pretty much the end of the line for most of your questions, and back to square one for other questions.

What the Commissioner Found (or didn’t find)

The decision the Information Commissioner came to can be found here. It is appreciated the law says that no information can be released which might reveal police procedure or might undermine public confidence in the police. However, several points arise when reading the decision.

1.  Right to reply while the investigation was live

Should there have been a right to comment on the Police Scotland representations when the decision was still in the draft stage?  In an investigation made by the Scottish Information Commissioner regarding Stewart Milne, there were regular updates, and opportunities to comment on Aberdeen City Council’s representations to the Commissioner.

If there hadn’t been this opportunity, the city’s claim the information was too expensive to get would have been allowed to stand – this claim was disproved by keeping the petitioner informed of the council’s claims, and allowing the petitioner to comment on them.

Other opportunities for involvement in the Commissioner’s investigation were reflected in passages such as:

“If you would like to make any further comment regarding the Council’s reliance on section 33(1)(b) of FOISA for this information then please feel free to. Any comments you make will be taken into consideration in reaching a decision on this case”.
http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/ApplicationsandDecisions/Decisions/2011/201100822.aspx

and

“In order for me to thoroughly investigate your case I would appreciate it if you could provide me with a submission as to why you consider that there is a public interest in disclosure of information.” (IBID)

2.  No info blackout?

Relevant information was found exempt from disclosure because it contained third party data.  Surely some form of redaction of this personal third party data might have been possible – local and national governments issue ‘redacted’ documents (documents with passages blocked out) all the time.

This suggestion could have been made to the Commissioner during the investigation. It might or might not have been acted on, but the case for redacting the ‘sensitive’ information could have been made.

3.  Public Image: Limited

With regard to the need to maintain ‘public confidence’, is it possible that the lack of transparency is exactly what is eroding confidence.  When it seems, in cases such as this one, that laws are being applied unevenly – particularly where there is a specified local policing strategy in place, you might think the police would be eager to explain apparent disparity.

4.  Investigation?  What investigation?

There are parts of the decision which call for almost line for line comment; below are some points (marked with letters in square brackets) and relevant comments.

In Points 19 through 25 of the Decision, it is established that the

[a]“…withheld information was held in files of investigations into allegations of criminal conduct which were carried out under the statutory obligations of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967″ and that the Commissioner accepts that the police

[b] “held the withheld information for the purpose of an investigation…” and therefore she

[c] “must conclude that the exemptions apply.”  The police claimed that:

[d] “disclosure of the requested information would entail releasing information gathered for the purposes of an investigation, which would involve details of investigatory processes and other issues considered as a matter of course during an investigation” and they also claimed

[e] “disclosure of the information would reveal processes showing how allegations are investigated which could prove useful to criminals and those intending committing a crime.”

[a,b] Had there been the opportunity to comment during the investigation, it would have been pointed out that no investigation took place – how could there have been an investigation when potentially crucial videotape evidence was not examined?  Therefore Police Scotland’s claim its data was “.. for the purposes of an investigation” looks just a bit shaky.

As they had written on 29 March 2013:-

“The solicitor gave advice to the officers dealing with the matter and based on his advice, they made the decision that the incident was not a criminal matter.”

[c] Perhaps the Information Commissioner would have still sided with the police, but there should have been a chance to throw reasonable doubt on their reason for withholding the information.

[d] It can be argued that the information the police had was not gathered for the purposes of an investigation; the evidence they have must be  largely what David Milne gave to them directly. This refusing potential evidence is a move which hopefully is without precedent.

The refusal leads to the question: Was a decision taken that the special policing policy invented expressly for the Menie Estate did not apply to David Milne but only to the developer? The policy was to:-

“Maximise safety; minimise disruption; facilitate lawful protest; deter, detect, detain and report those responsible for unlawful behaviour.”

Disclosure of the thinking behind the lack of investigation seems clearly to be in the public’s interest  – if laws are not being enforced and/or criminal activity is not being investigated, the public would have serious concern. At present, it certainly looks as if Justice decided to peek out from under her blindfold and engage in a bit of favouritism.

[e] It seems a bit of a stretch to claim that telling Milne why his vandalised property didn’t warrant proper investigation would jeopardise Police Scotland’s secret investigative procedures and help criminals.

At present, there are dozens of police documentaries and docu-dramas, from Crimewatch UK to several specific programmes which give a great deal of information on how the UK and Scottish police investigate (or do not investigate in this instance) criminal activity.

As well as a sizable list of crime documentary/procedural shows, there are books such as ‘The Police Procedural’ by George N Dove – which leaves little left to be revealed on points of police procedure.

Stating at Point 30 of the Commissioner’s decision that:

“it will not be in the public interest to disclose information if this would undermine the confidence of the public in that part of the justice system or the confidence of police officers gathering information for such investigations”

There was no investigation, so it is hard to see how this point of law is applicable in this situation. With all due respect, withholding information as to why this incident was not fully investigated is precisely what might erode public confidence in the police.

5.  Whodunnit?

At Point 36 of the Commissioner’s Decision it again becomes regrettable that there was no opportunity to comment on the draft decision before its release.  This point states

“… the decision not to pursue a prosecution was not made by their solicitor, but by the officers investigating the matter who considered that the incident was not a criminal matter.” 

This brings up two important issues.

Firstly, there is a large contradiction in what was originally released by the police and the Information Commissioner’s conclusion. The Commissioner has been advised at some point in her investigation that it was police officers who decided the matter was not a criminal one. However, on 29 March the police wrote in a letter:-

“ The solicitor gave advice to the officers dealing with the matter and based on his advice, they made the decision that the incident was not a criminal matter.”

This again reinforces that there was no investigation – so the reasons given for not releasing the desired information because it was the subject of an investigation is something of a Catch 22. It would be very interesting to know if it was on the solicitor’s advice or on the police’s own judgment that the video was refused.

6.  Policy

As previously raised, the police invented a specific, Menie-based strategy. The following question had been put to Police Scotland in the original request:-

“…in Spring 2009, following the announcement of a number of strategic economic and infrastructure developments, Grampian Police established a short life Critical Incident Preparation Group (CIPG).

“… a generic, local strategy, relevant to Menie Estate (was) developed. This has been determined as; Maximise safety; minimise disruption; facilitate lawful protest; deter, detect, detain and report those responsible for unlawful behaviour.”

In light of this stated policy, do the police consider that its handling of the incident at the Milne property in October 2010 fits in with the strategy of ‘…detect, detain, and report those responsible for unlawful behaviour’? If the policy was not applied to the trespass, theft and damage at the Milne property, then whose decision was it that the policy did not apply?

In any event, it seems clear that the police do not want to explain why this policy was not used to protect Mr Milne.

Later on, as Trump operatives moved onto land that was subject of a civil dispute, police enabled Trump’s employees to take the law into their own hands, enter disputed areas and even cause property damage, while helpless Forbes was told he couldn’t do anything to stop it.

In that case it is possible the police were not correctly applying law and arguably going against their own invented local code for most of these incidents. As the saying goes, “there is one law for the rich, and another for the poor”.

8.  Of No Interest (?)

At Point 24 the Decision notes the Police claim “there was no significant wider public interest”. This is simply untrue, not least because of the outcry at the treatment meted out to Menie resident Michael Forbes, who was initially charged with theft for taking marker flags out of his field, which he then handed over.

The arrests of journalists Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney also throw light on what confidence in the police the public may have, and certainly these incidents show there is local, national and international interest in policing at Menie.  Point 24 should not have been allowed to stand without my right to reply as applicant.

9.  Contradiction?

David Milne had also accomplished the impressive feat of getting some 19,500 people to sign a petition to Holyrood asking for a public inquiry into the goings-on at Menie. This was, unsurprisingly, turned down: the Petitions Committee’s procedure was to ask the agencies in the firing line if they wanted to be investigated. To a one, they said no.

This lack of transparency regarding the Milne property vandalism brings back the spectre of the aborted public inquiry: at present we’re being told information can’t be released, but at the time the inquiry was possible, the police wrote that there was nothing left to disclose.

Despite that claim to the Petitions Committee, there certainly seems to be fair amount of information regarding Mr Milne’s case which the police haven’t, and won’t disclose after all.

This rather raises some interesting questions about the accuracy of the police representation to the Petitions Committee, which reads in part:-

“Police Scotland remain completely neutral on all matters concerning the development of the Menie Project with our focus remaining on ensuring that officers approach their duties with integrity, fairness and respect for all parties involved, and only taking action where appropriate to address behaviour which breaches the criminal law. 

“It is our position that all officers involved in the policing response connected with this development have carried out their duties in an impartial and transparent manner.”

Some people beg to differ.

Flaw and Order

At the heart of the refusal to supply information there is the carte blanche, the all-encompassing get out clause for FOI requests put to the police:  it seems releasing this kind of information just might “undermine the confidence of the public in that part of the justice system.”

Recent restructuring of Scotland’s regional police forces into Police Scotland spelled the end of Grampian Police. This had to be a good thing; the local police force didn’t exactly have an untarnished recent past. Its former top policeman Ian Patterson is going to prison for sex offences.

Two officers of what was the Northern Constabulary were recently convicted of a bizarre, wholly unlawful abuse of two troubled teenage girls, taken from their care home to a remote farm, frightened and forced to walk without shoes through horse manure.

But it was a new low for the police force of Grampian and Scotland when the documentary ‘you’ve been trumped’ captured the moment that Baxter and Phinney were abruptly, roughly – and to any rational person’s judgment – unjustly arrested at the Menie Estate. The arrest shocked the world, and the documentary showing life at Menie has travelled the world, winning awards.

The Police Scotland reorganisation was meant to improve the police’s operations and public image, but scepticism continues.

Judging from the response David Milne had to a freedom of information request, this scepticism, if not mistrust and lack of confidence in Police Scotland, may be around for a good long while yet.

In an article on 23 November 2013, the Herald raises some doubts:-

“One national force, it was argued, would not just save on costs, but would also improve accountability. This has not transpired, at least on the evidence of a refusal by Police Scotland and the Scottish Government to release details of the KPIs being used by the new force. As we reported this week, both bodies rejected our Freedom of Information request on the topic.” 
http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/herald-view/police-accountability-at-important-junction.22755317

The Herald wasn’t able to obtain information on how the police operate, and so largely it proved for Milne.

Yet the Information Commissioner has partially sided with Milne. He will not be getting all of the information (or indeed much of the facts sought), but he will be receiving – in January – further details about police cautions issued at Menie.

The police decided that when asked for information ‘since 2010’ they could merely give information from 2011, even though the original information request told the police to ask questions if they were not sure what was meant.  This information will be of some use, but it won’t really address the big picture.

If the idea is to maintain confidence in Police Scotland, perhaps accountability and transparency (as the Sunday Herald article suggests) would be a good start.

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Jun 102013
 

How the unelected quango that is Scottish Enterprise, with ACSEF’s blessing, put business before our environment and won the day for Trump is the question. However, getting information about what happened is a bit like pulling teeth.  Suzanne Kelly reports on her recent bids to obtain information from Scottish Enterprise about its engagement with Trump.

Scotland is well and truly open for business.  We will wine and dine with you, fly you round our protected environment in helicopters, create feasibility studies at taxpayer expense, and give support recommending existing environmental protection is overlooked.

Well, we’ll do that if you are a foreign billionaire.

Much has been written about the relationships between Scotland’s First Ministers McConnell and Salmond, Scottish Enterprise and Donald Trump.  There have been dinners both sides of the Atlantic with these key players.

The Ministerial Code prohibiting such blatant support for pending planning applications was certainly bent if not broken.

New information has come to light through Freedom of Information requests.  A letter from Scottish Enterprise’s Jack Perry to Trump following their dinner is the sort of love letter that would have made Dame Barbara Cartland blush. The new FOI requests have also raised some important questions.

Anomalies between the disclosed information and the facts do not always seem to add up.

Love-letters Straight from the Heart

Scottish Enterprise – an unelected, taxpayer funded quango provided support to the Trump organisation.   It is clear the organisation should deal with foreign investors.  Why, however, it should have recommended – and successfully so – overriding environmental protection status to create a golf club is a mystery.

Another mystery is why the taxpayer should have spent over £30,000 on a feasibility study, or provided £40,000 helicopter flights over Menie to a billionaire.

After meeting in New York for dinner with Trump, this is what then head of Scottish Enterprise, Jack Perry wrote a letter to the Donald, which can be found here:  http://menie-estate-report.yolasite.com/

The letter raises a few points as well as raising the bar in obsequiousness. In order of appearance, these include the following.

1.  Perry put pressure on the head of the Shire council in the form of a letter ‘registering his profound dismay’.  Scottish Enterprise could either have suggested new potential, less contentious locations for a course.  It could have stayed out of the political side of things. It chose to write to the head of regional government to ‘register dismay’.

2.   More importantly, Perry puts it on the table:  The Scottish Government favoured the plans.

“We concur with the Scottish Government’s contention that this is genuinely a project of national importance to Scotland.” 

The rejected planning application was called in by the Government, who had let its support of the plan be known in December of 2007.  With this predisposition noted by close government quango head Perry, how could there have been any chance of a fair outcome?  What exactly was this partiality based on?  Was it the extremely favourable business projections – which now seem rather unrealistic to say the least?

3.  Perry lobbies the other parties’ shadow ministers.  As he put it:-

“I have tried to make it clear in these discussions that the impact of Aberdeenshire Council’s decision goes far beyond the immediate issues of the Trump development but has much wider implications for Scotland’s International image and reputation as a country which welcomes investment.”

Is it really part of the remit of Scottish Enterprise to not only lobby, but to lodge a veiled threat that saying no to this project would have ‘wider implications’?

The head of a multi-million pound quango and the influence of ACSEF, Scottish Enterprise’s Regional Advisory Board – itself unelected but taxpayer funded – could be very intimidating indeed.  Indeed, Patrick Machray, then head of ACSEF, was singled out for praise in the support he lent to the Trump project, and was copied on this letter.

Perry closes his letter:-

As Scotland’s principal economic development agency, we at Scottish Enterprise wish to see your development proceed. We will continue to do what we can to help.”

And indeed they did.

Do we really want to be funding unelected bodies, Scottish Enterprise and ACSEF, to act in a manner that sidesteps or pressurises our elected officials?  It seems we do.

Freedom of Information Conundrums

Getting information should be easy, and responses to FOI requests accurate and complete.  The recent replies received from Scottish Enterprise raise as many questions as they answer.  Here are some issues arising.

1.  Hospitality

A fairly comprehensive question was posed as to any hospitality/gifts that might have been received from the Trump organisation:-

“3.  Details of any hospitality (event, gift, accommodation, etc.) offered to any member of Scottish Enterprise or Visit Scotland  from Trump International (including Donald Trump, Trump International Golf Links Scotland, Trump International, and The Trump Organization) which pertains to the Menie Estate, Balmedie, SSSIs, setting up business in Scotland, environmental laws, finance available for golfing ventures in Scotland).”

The answer sounded reasonable enough at first:-

“In accordance with Section 17(1)(b) of FOISA, I can confirm that Scottish Enterprise holds no information relating to any gifts or money received from Trump International, or the other related parties listed.    To comply with Scottish Enterprise’s Code of Conduct, the organisation maintains a register of gifts and hospitality received by employees from companies.   I confirm that a search of the register has been undertaken and no entries relating to gifts or hospitality from Trump have been registered.”

However, Jack Perry’s letter to Donald Trump opens as follows:-

“You may or may not recall that I had the pleasure in October 2005 of joining you for lunch in the Trump Tower with the then First Minister, Mr Jack McConnell….”

Who exactly paid for this lunch?  While much has been written about the subject, it is not at present clear whether the taxpayer paid for the lavish meal (steaks and shrimp in Trump Tower are not exactly inexpensive), or whether Trump did.  If it was the taxpayer, how extremely generous of us, particularly when McConnell should not have been there anyway.

If it was Trump, then the cost should have appeared on Jack Perry’s hospitality details:  Scottish Enterprise are saying no hospitality had been registered.

2.  Funding

An excellent article on this meeting can be found in the Scotsman at http://www.scotsman.com/news/scottish-news/top-stories/how-jack-of-clubs-came-up-trumps-for-donald-1-1411884

It mentions two helicopter flights paid for by Scottish Enterprise– the Scottish taxpayer picked up the tab.  The Scotsman article reports:-

“The billionaire’s golf company was lavished with attention. Two memos released by SE show that – at a cost of £4,800 to the public purse – the agency paid for two helicopter tours of Scotland, taking in the golf course site, as they showed off the country to their deep-pocketed American friends.

“A further e-mail shows they offered to meet the £40,000-50,000 cost of a feasibility study into the Menie Links site. Trump’s people were impressed, “raving” in August last year about the way enterprise agency officials were courting them. All was set fair for a deal.”

However, when asked a fairly clear question about funding:-

 “2. Details of any funding applied for, granted, or rejected for Trump International (including Donald Trump, Trump International Golf Links Scotland, Trump International, and The Trump Organization) which pertains to the Menie Estate, Balmedie, SSSIs, setting up business in Scotland, environmental laws, finance available for golfing ventures in Scotland) by Visit Scotland and Scottish Enterprise.”

The reply ignored these flights:-

“I can confirm, in accordance with Section 17(1)(b) of FOISA, that Scottish Enterprise holds no information within the scope of your request.   SE has not received any applications for funding, and has not granted, or rejected any applications for funding for Trump International, or the other related parties listed.”

It seems fairly evident that supplying flights worth c. £40,000 would have constituted funding granted.  Money was spent in connection to the Menie Estate.

3.  Time Warp

A FOI question pertained to the quote from Jack Perry appearing on the Trump website.  This quote reads:-

“As Head of Scottish Enterprise, Scotland’s main economic, enterprise innovation and investment agency, I welcome the progress on Trump International Golf Links’ development in Aberdeenshire. The overall aim of Scottish Enterprise’s Tourism strategy is to achieve higher value add through the development of such premium resorts and experiences for visitors.

“We value the commitment which the Trump organisation is demonstrating by commencing work on the site at Menie, as this type of new resort development, will deliver modern, high quality accommodation and facilities to Scotland. This is critical to our ambition to help Scotland realise more value from our tourism assets. The development will attract higher spending visitors from across the UK and overseas and will further support Scotland’s position in the global market as the Home of Golf.”

“Jack Perry, Chief Executive, Scottish Enterprise”

The website did not pre-exist the course.  The quote refers to work commencing on the site.

Scottish Enterprise would have us believe, however, that no correspondence took place between it and Trump. The FOI had specified that correspondence from 2008 onward was being requested.  Bearing in mind the pre-approval letter from Perry to Trump was from December 2007.  This was the FOI question:-

“1.  Copies of correspondence to and from Visit Scotland and Scottish Enterprise on the one part and Trump International (including Donald Trump, Trump International Golf Links Scotland, Trump International, and The Trump Organization) on the other part, pertaining to the Menie Estate, Balmedie, SSSIs, setting up business in Scotland, environmental laws, finance available for golfing ventures in Scotland).”

In February this was the answer to that question:-

“We have carried out a search of our files and can advise, in accordance with Section 17(1)(b) of FOISA, that Scottish Enterprise holds no information within the scope of your request.”

As it seemed unlikely that a quotation from Perry got onto the Trump website with no correspondence taking place; a new FOI was launched.  The question SE was now asked included the quotation taken from Trump’s website.  This simply could not have been made before 2008 – not with the reference to work commencing.

The December 2007 letter to Trump from Perry was before the subsequent government approval of the scheme.  It was time to ask Scottish Enterprise to explain, and the following questions were sent;-

“2.1 Given the answer supplied below, that no correspondence took place between Scottish Enterprise and the Trump Organisation, please explain how the above text was sent to the Trump organisation, under what circumstances, and at whose instigation.

“2.2 Please also explain the apparent inconsistency with your previous reply that there had been no correspondence between the two entities.

“2.3 If it now seems that there was correspondence between the two entities, please now submit such correspondence.”

When thus virtually cornered, SE replied:-

“Following an extensive search of files, I can confirm, in accordance with Section 17(1)(b) of FOISA that SE does not hold any information to respond to your question.  Any communication officers that could have dealt directly with the Trump Organisation have since left Scottish Enterprise and, in accordance with our retention policy, we would no longer hold files which would allow us to confirm how the quote referred to above was provided to the Trump Organisation.

“Your previous FOI requested information held from 2008 onwards.   The response provided was therefore accurate within the scope of your request.

“Please find attached a letter from Mr Perry, former CEO of SE, to Donald Trump dated 7 December 2007.    I confirm that this is all of the information held within the scope of your request.”

The correspondence ends with the statutory advice that an investigation of how the FOI request was handled can be requested.  It is a fair bet to assume it will be.

If an organisation like this quango doesn’t keep correspondence – including that sent on behalf of its CEO – then accountability simply doesn’t exist.

Does Scottish Enterprise have carte blanche and a blank chequebook?  We could be forgiven for thinking so.

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