At the bottom of correspondence with SNH it reads that “if you remain dissatisfied with the outcome of the complaint review you may pursue this through the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman“.
The purpose of an ombudsman is to investigate and point out problems caused by public bodies. This should therefore be a suitable organization to inform about the misconduct of Scottish Natural Heritage staff.
As such we presented our case to the ombudsman. We explained the rigged nature of the SNH investigation. Proof of this was supplied as well, including the PalAlba photograph as well as other compromising documents.
Our case was handled by a Complaint Reviewer of the ombudsman, who, judging by the job title, would look at the merit of our request for an investigation. This seems to be a first step for this organisation to see whether an investigation is worth pursuing.
We recieved a list of reasons why it was not possible to investigate the matter, the most important of which were:
- As we are not residents of Britain the ombudsman does not need to investigate our complaint.
- The ombudsman does not have the expertise to judge this matter. This is remarkable. What they are saying is that they cannot confirm whether the “almost totally removed” sentence contains within the Site Management Statement for Birk Knowes occurs in the 4 written pages of the NMS report. This requires only an understanding of the English language, and 10 minutes of time. In other words, the Complaint Reviewer was reaching for reasons not start an investigation.
- They claimed that SNH did not agree with us and that this in itself does not demonstrate maladministration. This showed that the Complaint Reviewer did not even read our complaint, as the nature of our complaint was not that SNH disagreed with us, but that the SNH investigation ignored compromising facts.
As it was evident that the complaint reviewer had not properly looked at our complaint, we appealed this decision. Interestingly, it was not possible to appeal against this decision because the Complaint Reviewer‘s decision is regarded as final – as though they are infallible. However, as we could show that our complaint was not looked at properly, we complained about this fact and sent an appeal anyway.
We received a response from Jim Martin, who was the ombudsman at the time.
Unfortunately, he reiterated the fact that we are not residents of Britain, and that he therefore did not have the power to consider our complaint.
This was unfortunate because, instead of looking for reasons to investigate the misconduct of SNH staff, the ombudsman looked for reasons not to investigate it.
It also meant that Scottish Natural Heritage told us to go to the ombudsman in vain.
As it would be pointless to follow up this matter along a path where we would be sent from one bureacratic organisation to the other, we have effectively been forced to publicise this case.
But before making public what happened, there was one last person who we had a few questions for…