Scottish Borders Council has been ordered to disclose documents revealing how its plans to build a £21m advanced thermal treatment plant near Galashiels ended in disaster.
Former Scottish Information Commissioner Rosemary Agnew has given the local authority until June 12, to make public, documents that will reveal why the deal with New Earth Solutions Group to build the plant at Easter Langlee landfill site was scrapped in February 2015, forcing SBC to write off £2.4m. NESG has since gone into administration.
Ms Agnew’s investigation was triggered by retired journalist Bill Chisholm invoking freedom of information laws to try and find out what went wrong.
He wanted sight of five reports presented in private to councillors between March 2011, when NESG was contracted to build a conventional waste treatment system, and October 2012 when the original contract was amended and the untried and untested advanced thermal treatment plant was commissioned by the council.
However, the paperwork was either withheld or released in much-redacted form, with the council citing a confidentiality agreement.
Ms Agnew’s report, challenges that position, and states: “There is comparatively little information in the five reports about the financial status of NESG or details of the technology it was developing.
“Much of the information withheld relates not to NESG and its financial assets but to the council’s own financial or administrative matters.”
A spokesperson for SBC said: “The council welcomes the decision by the Scottish Information Commissioners. The determination that the relevant information is no longer confidential means the council can now release that information without breaching its contractual obligations.”