FOR the second time this year, Scotland’s information watchdog has ordered Scottish Borders Council to release previously withheld documents relating to its ill-fated deal with a private company to deliver a £21m waste treatment plant at Easter Langlee.

It is the latest development in the aftermath of February, 2015, when the contract with New Earth Solutions Group (NESG) was scrapped, forcing the council to write off £2.4m of public funds.

Since then, the council has resisted Freedom of Information attempts by retired Borders journalist Bill Chisholm to cast light on the costly misadventure.

SBC’s position has been that disclosure of the requested paperwork would cause NESG “commercial and reputational damage” despite the firm becoming insolvent last year.

In April, the then Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) Rosemary Agnew ruled against the council and ordered the release of six key documents.

These revealed that councillors had agreed in private to sanction the delivery of an advanced thermal treatment (ATT) plant at Easter Langlee in October 2012, BEFORE a programme of trials at the company’s research and development site in Dorset had even begun.

And last week, Margaret Keyse, Mrs Agnew’s successor as SIC, ordered the council to release a further 86 documents.

These relate to Mr Chisholm’s request for disclosure of monthly updates which councillors received between October, 2012 and the demise of the contract in 2015.

Ms Keyse has given the council until August 14 to comply.

In an 18-page determination, Mrs Keyse states: “There is significant public interest in understanding what steps the council had taken to ensure the project was robust.

“There is a strong public interest in understanding the measures the council had taken in order to limit its financial exposure in a project which had been ongoing for four years and had involved substantial sums of public money.

“Disclosure of the withheld information would serve the public interest in informing the public about the actions and decisions taken by the council, the basis of those actions and decisions, and the reasons why the project failed.

“It is legitimate for the public to seek to understand what happened and in the public interest for this understanding to be as complete as possible.”

A spokesperson for SBC told the Border Telegraph yesterday: “As always, the council will fully consider the findings of the SIC’s report.”