What’s wrong with a straight answer?

There are mixed views about Freedom of Information legislation which affords us all the right to quiz public bodies about their affairs to an almost forensic degree.

For cash-strapped Scottish Borders Council, fulfilling its obligations in this regard must be a pain in the proverbial, especially when dealing with esoteric requests over the minutiae of common good assets.

A scan of the council website shows that, on several occasions, clauses of the law are invoked to decline an information request.

But it is difficult to find justification for the obdurate refusal, reported on page one, of senior officers to say what happened when, after nine years in charge, chief executive David Hume unexpectedly departed.

At the time, we were told in a council press release that Mr Hume had retired. Now, we learn he went under a voluntary severance arrangement.

We are none the wiser as to how much public money he received under whatever golden handshake scheme was agreed.

And we are asked to believe that discussions with him relating to his leaving were not even minuted. That is, indeed, hard to credit, given that this is not the tea boy, but the highest ranking and best-paid officer in the entire organisation.

Now, more public money will be spent as two watchdogs are likely to investigate this FoI response.

A straight answer to a straight question would have been a refreshingly better option.