Not so wild West

West Dunbartonshire Council

19 September 2011

See previous post: Well, what have you really done?.

 Much ado about Dunbartonshire

F.O.I. response from West Dunbartonshire Council

The Freedom of Information request took much longer than the twenty days predicted (May 25 to Sep 16).

I have reproduced it in full, excluding the contact details for myself and the Council officers who responded. Unless I have different information I can only presume they are professionals who probably wish fervently that the councillors had boycotted Antarctica instead! Penguins would cause them far fewer headaches.

I see no reason to incite harassment by publishing their phone numbers.

My questions are in bold, their answers in italics and snarky comments in [grey with brackets].

Our Ref: LA/FOI /11-7744

Date: 15 September 2011

Dear Mr Guy,

Re: Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 – West Dunbartonshire Council boycott of goods made or grown in Israel

Thank you for your request for information which was received by West Dunbartonshire Council on 17 August about:

West Dunbartonshire Council’s policy to boycott goods made or grown in Israel

Council’s Response

1.  Since West Dunbartonshire Council resolved to immediately cease the purchase of any goods we currently source, which were made or grown in Israel, what goods have been boycotted since the motion was passed?

West Dunbartonshire Council uses Scotland Excel to manage the Council’s procurement contracts. Scotland Excel is a centralised procurement organisation and was developed to help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of public sector procurement in Scotland. Through Scotland Excel, West Dunbartonshire Council has not purchased any goods made or grown in Israel since the boycott was passed. [Is this a round-about way of saying that the boycott is meaningless because someone else, develops and manages collaborative contracts for products and services for all Scottish municipalities? They presumably are not boycotting Israel.]

2. As a prudent council buys at the lowest price, how much has the decision to boycott Israel cost the residents of West Dunbartonshire?

I am writing to inform you that we have searched our records and the information you requested is not held by West Dunbartonshire Council.  West Dunbartonshire Council does not record this information. [So there is no way of knowing what effect the boycott had on the residents? This neatly dodges the trap Marrickville Council, Australia stumbled into. The moral? Never leave a paper trail!]

3. Which other states or organisations has West Dunbartonshire Council put under an official decision to boycott.

West Dunbartonshire Council has not boycotted goods from any other state or organization. [Not exactly a surprise. Can anyone really put up a reasonable case that the worst human rights offender in the world is Israel?]

4. How much has the decision to boycott these countries and organisations cost the residents of West Dunbartonshire?

I am writing to inform you that we have searched our records and the information you requested is not held by West Dunbartonshire Council.  West Dunbartonshire Council does not record this information. [See Question 3. If no one else was ever boycotted there would be no records. Sounds like a great make-work job: monitoring the Council’s boycotts of the other approximately 192 countries of the world, on a monthly basis</SARC>]

5. Has the West Dunbartonshire Council inadvertently purchased computers with Intel processors, Microsoft operating systems or Microsoft Office software, largely developed in Israel, since deciding to boycott?

I am writing to inform you that we have searched our records and the information you requested is not held by West Dunbartonshire Council.  West Dunbartonshire Council has not inadvertently purchased computers with Intel processors, Microsoft operating systems or Microsoft Office software, largely developed in Israel, since deciding to boycott. [I stepped into that one. Just about every PC computer in the world is chock full of Israeli developed hard and software.† Maybe they ‘advertently’ bought the equipment or maybe they just haven’t purchased a single computer, mobile phone, USB flash drive, etc. since the boycott was introduced.] 

6. Has the West Dunbartonshire investigated whether modern office equipment developed in Israel has been inadvertently purchased?

I am writing to inform you that we have searched our records and the information you requested is not held by West Dunbartonshire Council.  West Dunbartonshire Council has not investigated whether modern office equipment developed in Israel has been inadvertently purchased. [Is any one old else enough to remember John Banner as Sgt. Schultz in Hogan’s Heroes? Perhaps syndication on cable?]

7. Does West Dunbartonshire boycotted British Telecom, Veolia, Motorola, Alstom or other companies placed on the BDS boycott list for close contact with Israel?

West Dunbartonshire Council uses Scotland Excel to manage the Council’s procurement contracts. Scotland Excel is a centralised procurement organisation and was developed to help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of public sector procurement in Scotland. Through Scotland Excel, West Dunbartonshire Council has not used any of the companies you mention, or any other Israeli companies, to manage the Council’s contracts since the motion to boycott was passed. [Nice sidestep! Still it’s hard to believe a Scottish Municipality doesn’t use British Telecom directly. VoIP, perhaps?]

8. As the boycott is not retrospective and absolutely no books have been or will be removed from the library shelves as a consequence of the motion, how many books, printed in Israel and transported to the UK for distribution, are currently on the shelves of West Dunbartonshire libraries?

I am writing to inform you that we have searched our records and the information you requested is not held by West Dunbartonshire Council.  We do not collect this information. [Is this another way of saying there were never any books printed/published in Israel on the shelves? Not unlikely. Anything they want would be available from the British publishers. In this spirit I will now boycott the Rolls Royce (my other) car company although I have never owned one. ]

9. How many books in total are currently on the shelves of West Dunbartonshire libraries?

At 11.18am on Monday 5th September (when the count was taken) there were 118,542 books on the shelves in West Dunbartonshire Libraries. This excludes talking books and those books which are not on the shelves (i.e. missing, on loan, overdue, etc.). [Sort of reinforces the symbolic nature of the BDS. No pain but lots of moral superiority gain.]

In the interest of providing advice and assistance, I am including two official statements by West Dunbartonshire Council relating to the motion and which may be of assistance.

The two official statements are below:

Council refutes media-claims regarding the Israeli boycott

West Dunbartonshire Council utterly refutes recent media claims that it has ‘launched a boycott on Israeli books’.The Council’s boycott does not in any way seek to censor or silence authors and commentators from Israel. [Even those who support Israeli actions? It seems more reasonable than punishing printers.]

The Council’s boycott only relates to goods ‘made or grown’ in Israel. The vast majority of mainstream books by Israeli authors are published in the UK and are therefore not affected by this boycott. Only books that were printed in Israel and transported to the UK for distribution would be potentially boycotted.

In the two and a half years the boycott has been in place there has never been a case when the library service has been unable to purchase a book it wished to as a result of this boycott. [How would they know? The F.O.I. response says no records have been kept? If they haven’t been stopped from buying something how is that a boycott?]

Contrary also to some media reports the boycott is not retrospective and absolutely no books have been or will be removed from our library shelves as a consequence of the motion.

West Dunbartonshire Councillors voted to introduce the boycott in 2009.

The full motion is:

‘This Council deplores the loss of life in Palestine which now numbers well over 1,000 [Yet it apparently is oblivious to greater casualties in other wars].  This Council also recognises the disproportionate force used by the IDF in Palestine and agrees to boycott all Israeli goods as a consequence.  Officers should immediately cease the purchase of any goods we currently source, which were made or grown in Israel. [Apparently there are none.] Officers should also ensure we procure no new goods or produce from Israel until this boycott is formally lifted by WDC.’

Corporate Statement on the Boycott of Israeli Goods

Over recent days there has been some highly misleading publicity in the national and international press concerning West Dunbartonshire Council’s policy on the boycott of Israeli goods. In light of this publicity, the Council has received a number of complaints.

The facts are as follows.

The boycott on the purchase of Israeli goods followed a unanimous decision of West Dunbartonshire Council in January 2009. The boycott was in response to the Israeli state’s policy and actions in the Occupied Territories. [Point of order, Mr. Chairman. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. It is technically Unoccupied territory. No evidence has been produced about anywhere else.]

The boycott was not retrospective and applied only to purchases made from January 2009 onwards. [How can a boycott be retrospective?]

The boycott has not prevented West Dunbartonshire’s library service from purchasing any book which it wished to purchase. [In other words: just words.]

Accusations that Israeli books have been removed from the shelves of the West Dunbartonshire’s libraries or have been burned are entirely false and appear to be mischievously motivated. There are books by Israeli authors on the shelves of West Dunbartonshire Council’s libraries.

Attempts to depict this boycott as racist are also entirely inaccurate. The boycott was instigated in response to conduct by the Israeli state and applies to no specific ethnic or religious group. The Council has robust ant-racist and anti-sectarian policies and procedures. [It is purely coincidence that the one state or organisation targeted by the Council is the one Jewish state.]

This information has been disclosed in terms of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. Information disclosed to you may be subject to copyright laws. By providing this information West Dunbartonshire Council does not waive copyright nor does it create or provide a right to publish, disclose, reproduce, re-use or alter this information without consent of those parties holding the copyright.

Review Procedure

If you are dissatisfied with the way in which West Dunbartonshire Council has dealt with your request, you are entitled to require the council to review its decision.  Please note that in order for a review to take place, you must:

  • lodge a written requirement for review within 40 working days of the date of this letter
  • include your address for correspondence, a description of the original request and the reasons why you are dissatisfied
  • address your review request to the Head of Legal, Administrative and Regulatory Services:

Andrew Fraser
Head of Legal, Administrative and Regulatory Services
West Dunbartonshire Council

The review will be handled by staff who were not involved in the original decision. You will receive notice of the result of your review within 20 working days.  It will explain the findings of the review as well as details of how to appeal to the Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner if you are dissatisfied with the review decision reached by West Dunbartonshire Council.

If you have any further queries about this process, please contact me.

Yours sincerely,

Heather Mackay
Records Management Officer

I am not asking for a review. But if I was a resident of West Dunbartonshire Council I would be asking serious questions about an organisation that takes a controversial step and puts no measures in place to monitor it. 


† Techies, would I be correct in suggesting that would apply to just about any computer, Apple, Unix, etc.?
‡ But not the Rolls Royce aircraft engines company because like computers and mobile phones, aircraft are ubiquitous and no one ever checks what’s in them before buying/flying. It’s not as if you have any choice.

About David Guy

B.A./B.C.A. (Communication and Media Arts) University of Wollongong, AUSTRALIA M.A. in Government (Diplomacy and Conflict Studies) Inter Disciplinary Center, Herzliya, ISRAEL Twitter @5MFI
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