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Scottish Government drops controversial plans to exempt Royals from FOI laws

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon recently outlined her vision of a socially democratic independent Scotland.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon recently outlined her vision of a socially democratic independent Scotland.

  • by SCOTT MACNAB
 

THE Scottish Government has dropped controversial plans which would have allowed the Royal family to escape the glare of Freedom of Information (FOI) laws.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the u-turn today after concerns were raised by a committee of MSPs at Holyrood.

New laws have been rushed through south of the Border to protect the Royals, after a judge ruled that dozens of letters written by Prince Charles to “lobby” the coalition government on various policy areas should be released.

The SNP Government initially planned to follow suit in Scotland, but their proposals suffered a setback in a recent report published by the Nationalist-dominated finance committee at Holyrood which calls for the royal FOI “exemption” to be ditched.

And Ms Sturgeon said today: “Having carefully considered the report of the Finance Committee, we have concluded that the principle of public interest as regards Royal communications should be maintained.

“As a result, and subject to the views of the Parliament, we are now proposing that there should be no absolute exemption for information relating to communications with senior members of the Royal Family.

“We remain firmly of the view that communications between Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family with Scottish Ministers - and other public authorities - should be handled sensitively and confidentially, with strict and appropriate application of the exemptions contained within the current Freedom of Information Act.”

It came as the Government announced other changes to the Freedom of Information Bill currently going through Holyrood, designed to further strengthen Scotland’s transparency regime.

These would place new obligations on Scottish Ministers to regularly review extending the scope of the legislation to cover additional bodies. The range of range of organisations who are consulted when considering extensions will be widened.

Ms Sturgeon added: “Scotland has a robust Freedom of Information regime and our Amendment Bill will ensure that this is maintained.

“I also believe that the scope of bodies covered by Freedom of Information must be kept under regular review to ensure that the regime remains robust and relevant. Our amendments aim to do just that”.

 
 
 

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