Freedom of Information set to be expanded by Scottish Government, minister says
Ministers are set to outline a potential expansion of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act that could see the transparency rules cover care homes, private transport providers, and companies involved in major infrastructure projects.
George Adam, minister for parliamentary business, said the Government would set out its approach “soon” to extending FOI to potentially include those involved in PPP and PFI projects whose cost has spiralled to more than £40 billion under the SNP.
The comments come ahead of the publication of the latest report by the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) into the performance of the Scottish Government in relation to Freedom of Information.
The report – to be published in the early part of this year – will provide an update to the ongoing SIC intervention of the Scottish Government, which began in 2017 after the commissioner was heavily critical of the policies in place.
In answer to a question from Tory MSP Russell Findlay on Wednesday, Mr Adam told MSPs the Government would set out its “broad approach soon” to how ministers may use their powers to expand Freedom of Information.
He said: “I can confirm that we will consider all areas highlighted in response to our 2019 consultation on the future use of minister’s powers including the social care sector, transport provider, NFD/PPP/PFI projects, and the work of regional HubCos.”
Mr Adam also said the Scottish Government missed its 95 per cent target for answering FOIs within the 20-day statutory deadline in November 2021, meeting the target 90 per cent of the time for the month and just 85 per cent of the time for the calendar year up to November.
Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader, also called for a review of the quality of FOI and parliamentary written question answers.
She said: “Aside from the time taken to respond to FOIs, there are issues about the substance of those responses and, while I’m sure that the Scottish Government is not deliberately withholding information, there are questions raised about the quality of the responses both the FOIs and to written parliamentary questions that suggests a lack of transparency at the heart of Government."
Mr Adam said he had “continually reviewed” these issues, was aware of certain situations and was working with officials to “make sure we can make things better”.
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