Today, the Scottish Parliament has its first opportunity in 11 years to reform freedom of information (FoI) law.
Reform is needed to protect the public’s right to know, undermined by the failure of successive administrations to ensure public service providers are covered by FoI.
The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FoISA) established a robust framework, but has been weakened as initial promises to add new organisations have not been honoured, and current promises to listen have yielded meagre results.
We are hugely disappointed that the Scottish Government has failed to designate additional bodies despite undertaking formal consultation in 2010.
Further inactivity is demonstrated today by its proposal to delay reporting on the use of this power until October 2015.
We therefore call all MSPs to support amendments to the current FoISA Amendment Bill.
These will make clear FoI is about “increasing…the availability of information held by Scottish public authorities”.
Instead authorities create, and outsource services to, organisations outwith FoISA and governments discuss “transparency agendas” instead of giving the public an enforceable right to know.
Research commissioned by Scotland’s Information Commissioner in 2011 revealed strong public support for extending FoI to cover organisations such as trusts providing services (88 per cent); housing associations (82 per cent), private companies building and maintaining schools or hospitals (83 per cent) and privately run prisons (73 per cent).
MSPs should support Amendments: 1–9, 12 and 14 and the Scottish Government should withdraw its own amendments. This would also be in line with the government’s own principles. FoI must be maintained and extended, not curtailed and reduced.
Maurice Frankel & Carole Ewart
Campaign for Freedom of Information
Willie Rennie MSP
John Finnie MSP
Glasgow Disability Alliance