Anas Sarwar to pledge Freedom of Information law overhaul to end ‘Secret Scotland’

Scottish Labour is set to pledge an overhaul to Freedom of Information (FOI) laws in a bid to improve government transparency.

Party leader Anas Sarwar will announce the plan today in Edinburgh as he launches the second of a series of papers setting out Labour’s proposals to reform and renew the Union.

Mr Sarwar will call on Holyrood to strengthen the FOI legislation by extending it to all bodies that provide a public service and create a presumption in favour of proactive publication of public information.

Doing so will put an end to “secret Scotland”, he said ahead of the launch.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and deputy leader Jackie Baillie. Picture: John Devlin

Labour MSP Katy Clark has revealed she intends on introducing a Private Members’ Bill to adapt the laws.

Mr Sarwar says the reform can be a “part of the fight back” against a “culture of secrecy”.

He said: “The people of Scotland deserve a Scottish Parliament that is open and transparent for all.

“However, when you have a Government which actively seeks to avoid scrutiny and backbenchers who suspend their responsibilities in the name of party interest, then, the system needs to be reformed.

“Committees have been ignored, processes run roughshod over and the responsibility to be truly accountable to both Parliament, the press and the public has been ignored by SNP ministers.

“All the while, a spectre of sleaze has cast its shadow over Scottish politics.

“We can’t allow a culture of cover-up to weaken the faith of the people of Scotland in their Parliament.

“That’s why today I am outlining a series of reforms to end the SNP’s secret Scotland and strengthen Scottish democracy.

“This much-needed reform of Freedom of Information law is only the start of the fight back.”

The Scottish Tories had separately last month demanded the Government justify a significant rise in the amount of money spent on FOI staff with improved performance.

In 2016, the year before the Scottish Information Commissioner issued a blistering attack on the Government’s approach to FOI, spending was £172,005. Last year the amount spent rose to £539,020.

Craig Hoy, the Scottish Conservative’s party chairman, said the costs had “ballooned”, but with “nothing to show for it”.

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