Further consultation on extending the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act

The Scottish Government has published a consultation paper seeking views on whether the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act should be extended to cover the following bodies:

  • contractors who run privately managed prisons and provide prisoner escort services;
  • leisure, sport and cultural trusts and bodies used by local authorities;
  • the Glasgow Housing Association;
  • the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland;
  • contractors who build and maintain schools;
  • contractors who build and maintain hospitals; and
  • contractors who build, manage and maintain trunk roads under private finance contracts.

The consultation paper states:

At this stage the Scottish Government has not reached firm conclusions on which bodies it would be appropriate to extend coverage to. We are particularly mindful of the importance of establishing whether coverage would place undue financial burdens upon bodies at a time of economic difficulties. Creating additional regulatory or financial requirements must be appropriate and proportionate.

This consultation paper therefore formally seeks the views of the bodies listed above (or their representative bodies) on their coverage by the Act, and the views of any other interested parties. Each section explores the issues raised with us to date about covering a particular type of body, presents our rationale for extending coverage, and asks certain questions.

The responses we receive to this consultation paper are therefore key and will directly contribute to the evidence base on which a decision will be reached. 

The consultation is open for 14 weeks until 2 November 2010. The Government will then consider whether to bring forward an Order under section 5 of the Act. The consultation paper suggests that the Order would come into force after 12 months, to allow the bodies concerned to make the necessary preparations for meeting the Act’s requirements.

The Scottish Information Commissioner welcomed the consultation:

In my response to the consultation I will be encouraging the Scottish Government to press ahead with extending the Freedom of Information Act to the contractors, trusts and other bodies which now deliver public services.  At a time when economic circumstances may affect the quality of health, education and leisure services, the public will undoubtedly have questions about spending decisions and performance.  The scope of bodies covered by freedom of information laws needs to keep pace with the changing landscape of public spending and so I generally welcome the proposals being made by the Government and will submit my formal response shortly.

The consultation paper is available here. Further background material about the Scottish Government’s decision to consult on bringing these particular bodies under FOISA is here.

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