No Justice
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Not Accountable
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SPSO Scottish Public Services Ombudsman Watch - Home Page
Campaigning for a more accountable & effective Scottish Public Services Ombudsman
Public petitions regarding the SPSO made to the Scottish Parliament.
There have been 7 public petitions to the Scottish Parliament highlighting the injustice of
and effective. Five of these petitions were made in 2007/2008 and are still open.

So far the Scottish Parliament has ignored the blatant abuse of the public by the Scottish
Ombudsman.

This web site documents the complaints about the SPSO that have been made to the
Scottish Parliament to ensure that in the future the Scottish parliament cannot use the
excuse that they did not know what the Scottish Ombudsman was doing.

The petitions are in reverse chronological order (ie starting with most recent going to
oldest)

Petitions made in 2008

7. PE1212 - Petition by Jean Camidge calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the
Scottish Government to hold a public inquiry into whether the Scottish Public Services
Ombudsman has delivered the quasi-judicial complaints handling service it claims to
provide and to review all complaints brought by members of the public but subsequently
rejected by the SPSO.  

If you want to read the petition in full then click on the following link PE1212 Written submission
LINK


6. PE1190 - Petition by George Hunter calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the
Scottish Government to require local authorities to provide the Scottish Public Services
Ombudsman and the complainant, at the point it is requested, with all information that is
deemed relevant to any investigation that might be undertaken by the SPSO into a
complaint lodged with it.

If you want to read the petition in full then click on the following link PE1190 Written submission
LINK

The petitions committee acknowledged that "there seems to be a lot of noise around the SPSO,
and there have been other complaints about its operation—this is not by any means the first
petition on the subject".
Here is the link to the discussion about this petition LINK

5. PE1186 - Petition by Jean Mullan calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the
Scottish Government to abolish the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman and replace it
with a transparent organisation accountable to the people.


If you want to read the petition in full then click on the following link PE1186 Written submission
LINK

Rhona Grant MSP said "There is something very unfair about the system. However, I imagine that,
if we ask the Scottish Government whether it plans to abolish the ombudsman, it will probably say
no. Instead we should ask whether it plans to review the ombudsman's work and to make it more
accessible and responsive to people. After all, local authorities have lawyers, planners and so on
at their disposal, whereas Joe Bloggs in the street has none of those things. We need to redress
that balance, and perhaps consider whether the ombudsman should have more of an advocacy
role so that it listens to people's concerns, takes their complaints seriously and makes things
more accessible."
Here is the link to the discussion about this petition LINK

A supporter of this petition wrote "I have signed the above petition but basically I am in favour of
Parliament's intention in setting up the SPSO and would prefer Prof Brown to be removed along
with her appalling deputy Eric Drake, and a new management team appointed who are
committed to ensuring that the Scottish people receive justice. At least I can hope that their
contracts will not be renewed and their pensions are curtailed."
Link to document

The Scottish Governments response by Lachlan Stuart, Courts and Administrative Justice Team
Leader was "Notwithstanding these acknowledgements of a need for performance improvements,
the Government has no reason to believe that SPSO has ceased to perform a valuable function."

Link to document.


The following email was sent to Alex Salmond MSP on the 20th December 2008 regarding the
SPSO's failure to acknowledge, report or investigate complaints about their own decisions.
Link
to document.

Lachlan Stuart, Courts and Administrative Justice Team Leader responded on the 20th January
2009 on behalf of Alex Salmond and dismissed these complaints about decisions made by the
SPSO but had to admit that

"However, the dissatisfaction of some (but by no means all) members of the public with
experience of SPSO has not gone unnoticed."

Link to document.


4. PE1163 - Petition by Gregor Hamilton calling on the Scottish Parliament to invite
Audit Scotland to conduct, without delay, an economy, efficiency and effectiveness audit
of the office of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.   

I
f you want to read the petition in full then click on the following link PE1163 Written submission
LINK

One hundred and nine people signed this petition. The petition also received a significant number
of comments from the public supporting this petition.
The comments can be viewed by clicking on
this link.

The committee reviewed this petition and Angela Constance MSP stated that : "As a
constituency member, I have certainly received complaints about the SPSO's
processes."
Link to official report


Audit Scotland's response can be viewed here. Link to document.

Mr Hamilton's replied to Audit Scotland's letter by saying (Link to document)

"In respect of Audit Scotland's contention that an audit as requested is not appropriate whilst
action groups are considering the Crerar Review, may I respectfully point out that Professor
Crerar's main recommendation was that the role of the SPSO actually be expanded - as far as I
understand it, he did not offer comment on how well or otherwise the SPSO was dealing with its'
existing remit.

I doubt that any other individual Scottish public body has received such a concentration
of complaints, which makes Audit Scotland's reluctance to do what is patently required
unsupportable.

My own experience of asking Audit Scotland to undertake this work is that there has
been a perverse resistance to exploring the operation of the SPSO without rational
explanation given.

Audit Scotland's reply to the Committee of 7 October seems merely to repeat well-worn phrases
and seeks to justify inaction by offering the smokescreen of the action groups considering the
Crerar Review which was not intended to examine the operation of the SPSO other than
extending its' remit."

The Scottish Governments response by Lachlan Stuart, Courts and Administrative Justice Team
Leader can be viewed here.
Link to document.

The SPSO's response can be viewed here. Link to document.

Mr Hamilton's final response was (link to document)

"AUDIT SCOTLAND The response from the Auditor General for Scotland is not
entirely unexpected, following as it does a well-rehearsed routine. What seems to have
been addressed mainly is the possibility that the SPSO will undergo major change in
the future both in the way it operates, and in the scope of its’ remit. The Petition, on the
other hand, seeks to have the SPSO’ past operations examined. A promise of better
performance in the future is scarcely good reason not to audit past performance, which
as I understand it, is what audits are often for.
The breadth of dis-satisfaction with the SPSO, backed up by facts and figures, renders
Audit Scotland’s perverse disinclination to explore this body unsupportable.

3. THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT This response might well be a mirror image
of Audit Scotland’s view of the situation. The smokescreen of FCSAG’s
recommendations to Ministers seems to be just that -
a smokescreen to cover inaction
regarding the SPSO’s dismal performance since inception and an attempt to sweep
under the carpet the disappointment and disillusionment of hundreds, perhaps
thousands, of those who have neither the means nor the inclination to seek a Judicial
Review.

CONCLUSION The Petitioner requests the Public Petitions Committee to look once
more at Audit Scotland’s response, and to consider whether a further approach or other
action might be taken to bring the operation of the SPSO fully to MSP’s attention."

Petitions made in 2007

3. PE1076 - Petition by D W R Whittet QPM calling for the Scottish Parliament to set up
an Appeal Tribunal to review final decisions by the Public Services Ombudsman where
any complainer so requests.

I
f you want to read the petition in full then click on the following link PE1076 Written submission
LINK

Mudro Fraser MSP supported this petition and spoke in front of the committee and said "The
substance of his complaint is not particularly relevant to the petition; his concerns are about the
way in which his case was handled by the SPSO, what he felt were administrative failures and a
failure to address the basis of his complaint.......From my experience, Mr Whittet's views are by no
means unique. I have been contacted by several other constituents who had similar concerns
about the way in which the ombudsman handles cases."   
 Link to official report.

Petition PE1076 was reviewed by the committee and recommended that the petition and a
summary of all the other public written submissions should be sent to the Government.
Link to
official report.

MR Whittet is a retired Senior Police Officer who has extensive experience of carrying out
detailed investigations. After witnessing the Investigation of his complaints by the SPSO his view
is that "It is clear that the current Ombudsman and her staff lack the necessary skills and experince
to thoroughly and independently investigate complaints and to assess the validity of all evidence
adduced. Thus, an independent Appeal body with in-built accountability is urgently required to
review cases involving dissatisfaction on the part of the complainer."
Link to Mr Whittet's
submission.

Alex Ferguson MSP, Presiding Officer SPCB and man responsible for the Scottish Public
Service Ombudsman did not mention all of the complaints about the SPSO he had received and
basically said the issues surrounding the Ombudsman was nothing to do with him.
Link to Alex
Ferguson submission.

MR Whittet wrote to the committee after reviewing the responses from the Government and said "I
have never encountered such incompetence, maladministration and dismissive treatment as that
perpetrated by senior officials of Perth & Kinross Council and the Scottish Public Services
Ombudsman."  
Link to Mr Whittet's submission.

The Scottish Governments response by Lachlan Stuart, Courts and Administrative Justice Team
Leader can be viewed here.
Link to document.

Petitions made in 2005

2. PE745 - Petition by Yogi Dutta, calling for the Scottish Parliament to urge the
Scottish Executive to amend the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman Act 2002 to
incorporate a range of measures in relation to the accountability and responsibilities of
the Ombudsman, and to produce guidance notes describing the procedure for
investigating a complaint.   

I
f you want to read the petition in full then click on the following link PE745 Written submission LINK

There is not much information regarding this petition but it looks like the Petitions committee
wrote to the SPSO and they said everything was OK and the Committee said that's fine then and
closed the petition.

My Yogi Dutta also submitted his views on "Transforming Public Services - Discussion Paper" to
the Government in September 2006. This is an interesting document and if it had been
implemented would have gone a long way to making the local authorities accountable and would
get rid of corruption and nepotism.
Link to document.


Petitions made in 2002

1. PE525 - Petition calling for the Scottish Parliament to take the necessary steps to
amend the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman Act 2002 to incorporate a range of
measures to deal with grievances against Scottish local authorities.   

If you want to read the petition in full then click on the following link PE525 Written submission LINK

Mr Yogi Dutta was the first person to bring to the Scottish Parliament's attention the abysmal
performance of the SPSO and he made recommendations to change the act that governs the
SPSO to make them more accountable.

He says:

"In general the Ombudsman rejects 90% of the complaints and proceed with an inquiry only on 1%
of complaints. This is a very expensive and inefficient complaint handling procedure costing some
£100,000 per complaint investigated.

The petitioner therefore requests that the Scottish Parliament should amend the new act to
incorporate:

a. either define or make it obligatory for the Ombudsman to define administrative failings
b. extend the application of the act to all functions of the Local Authorities.
c. set time limits within which a decision must be notified to the complainant,
d make it obligatory for the Ombudsman to provide full reasons if the complaint is rejected,
e. appoint an organisation to audit 10% of complaints each year,
f. change the role of the complaint handling procedure from an inquiry to complaints handling

The Public Petitions Committee considered a response from the Scottish Executive in relation to
the issues raised and noted that the petitioner’s main concerns appear to have been addressed.
On this basis, the Committee agreed to take no further action on the petition, other than to pass a
copy of the Executive’s response to the petitioner for information.

It is quite evident that if the Public petitions committee had taken
action in 2002 when informed of the problems with the SPSO , then
the SPSO would not have been able to dismiss, without any reason, all
the valid and irrefutable complaints of maladministration submitted by
the public over the last 7 years and the local authorities would not be
able to teat the public with utter contempt in the clear knowledge that
the current Ombudsman would take no action against them.