So, today The Scottish Government published documents in relation to a Freedom of Information request in relation to Celtic’s Dubai trip. Someone – the document doesn’t say who – basically asked the Government if we were being honest in our claim that the training camp had been approved in November.
Amazingly, the official response says we weren’t.
But this is nothing but a play on words, as a reading of the document makes clear.
It is, in fact, fundamentally dishonest of the Scottish Government to frame its reply in the way that it has, and I will be interested to see how this information is used now that they have put it into the public domain.
Because it seems to me that Celtic were, basically, telling the truth.
This is how the FOI request was framed:
All the information and advice given to the SFA and SPFL by the Scottish Government on the Celtic FC trip to Dubai on the 2nd January 2021.
Please confirm if the Scottish Government approved this trip on 12th November 2020, as claimed by Celtic FC in their statement on 4th January 2021. Please also release all correspondence sent to Neil Doncaster, the SFA, the SPFL and Celtic FC regarding this trip to Dubai.
And this is how the Scottish Government chose to respond.
I attach a copy of all of the information you requested.
The answer to your question is no, the Scottish Government did not directly approve, nor is it the role of the Scottish Government to approve, Celtic FC’s trip to Dubai or any other specific overseas trips for football teams. Scottish Government officials confirmed to Celtic FC at the start of November in relation to a proposed trip to Turkey, that under the regulations in place at that time stated that elite sportspersons could attend elite training overseas, and be exempt from quarantine on return to Scotland.
As you can see, the Scottish Government is playing word games here; the key phrase here is “directly”, because as the answer itself, and the accompanying document, makes abundantly clear, they knew we were planning to travel to the Far East, and the club asked them if such a winter training camp was covered under the elite sport exemptions, and we were told that it would be … that’s about a clear confirmation of Celtic’s statement as you’ll get.
This nonsense about “in place at the time” seems like a deflection; in point of fact, when Celtic flew out there those regulations were broadly still in effect.
The Scottish Government might not have “approved” the trip but they gave Celtic the green light to go and that amounts to the same damned thing.
Celtic also claims that they were being given Scottish Government assistance all the way up the departure date, and in light of what was going on at the time I don’t have the slightest doubt that there was dialogue between ourselves and the powers that be at Holyrood right up until the very last minute … so I am not sure what the Government is up to here in trying to wash their hands of this affair.
On top of that, the Scottish Government claims to have handed over all the documents which were sought in the request; media watchers will not be surprised to learn that this, in fact, is not the case.
Because the enclosed documentation runs to a mere four pages, including Celtic’s lengthy letter setting out the plan and asking if it meets the exemption.
This is pure fluff. The question is answered in the affirmative but they’ve framed their top-sheet response in the negative. They claimed to have handed over everything the petitioner asked for but this is clearly not the case. I just wonder what game they are playing here with this response, and what they hope will be the result of it.
It’s clear that somebody sought this information to make further trouble for us. The issue is closed as far as most of us are concerned; Celtic shouldn’t have gone, but that’s based on a moral reading of the situation.
The SFA closed a case on this that they had no business opening in the first place, as they and the Scottish Government not only green-lit this but were consulted on it at every step.
Our club deserved criticism for going, but that’s where it ends.
We followed the procedures and the rules as they stood. In short, we let ourselves down and set a terrible example … but if you’re talking about the rules and violations thereof, there was no case to answer and there is no case to answer.
Anyone suggesting otherwise is a liar.
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