Forth Ports own and manage a lot of land in North Edinburgh. They also manage a Port and despite being a private company, still have statutory responsibilities that it inherited from its predecessor – publicly owned – body the Forth Port Authority.
Despite having these statutory responsibilities, and being the recipient of a great deal of public subsidy too, Forth Ports makes little information about its activities public as a matter of course.
Forth Ports, as a private company, is not covered by Freedom of Information legislation. This means, for example, that even though the Shore is identified as an area at risk of flooding by the government, few people have access to the details of the Forth Ports flooding contingency plan for Leith Docks. In fact, they’d be hard pushed to find out if one even exists.
It has however recently come to light that local people may be able to get hold of environmental information, such as flood plan documents, from Forth Ports using another piece of legislation – The Environmental Information Regulations.
A number of other port authorities elsewhere in the UK fall under the remit of this law – which is designed to ensure that people can access environmental information.
And even though a quick chat with Forth Ports Environment Director, Dr Derek McGlashan, established that he cannot recollect ever receiving an EIR request, guidance from other sources suggests that some aspects of Forth Ports operations may well fall under the scope of this law.
So, to test the principle, Forth Ports have been sent a small batch of information requests citing the EIR, one of them being a request to see their Leith Docks flooding contingency plan.
It may come to nothing. And it’s almost certain that the Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner will end up having to make a decision on it, so don’t expect anything to happen quickly.
But one day, we may yet be able to able to publish the Forth Ports Leith Docks flooding contingency plan in its entirety. If such a document exists.
In the meantime, here’s a short video clip of Dr McGlashan talking about the energy saving benefits of the new LED lights they’ve installed on the docks.
Photo credit: Alljengi