The Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland (CFoIS) today endorsed the Finance Committee’s conclusions, at Stage 1 of the Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, calling on the government to bring forward proposals to protect the public’s right to know.
CFoIS is pleased the Committee has listened to its evidence that legal reform must address the increasing number of public services that are being moved outwith the scope of Freedom of Information legislation via private contractors, housing associations, arms-length organisations and voluntary bodies. The Committee has requested that the Scottish Government come forward with fresh proposals at Stage 2. CFoIS believes a ‘purpose’ clause should be added to the Bill and Section 5 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 amended to require all public services be covered by FoI. These two reforms will ensure the public have an enforceable right to access information when public services or services of a public nature are delivered.
CFoIS had called for the proposed absolute exemption for Royal Communications to be dropped and is relieved that the Committee agrees. We believe there is no case to change the current arrangement whereby the existing exemption is subjected to a ‘public interest’ test.
The Committee states:
“ …in relation to the Royal exemption the Committee invites the Scottish Government to remove the Bill’s section 1 provision at Stage 2.63 The Committee also invites the Cabinet Secretary to provide details and timings of how the Scottish Government intends to take forward the issue of extension of coverage and clarify what the options are which she is ‘actively considering’, including the possibility of Stage 2 amendments to section 5 of the 2002 Act. In the light of this response, the Committee will reconsider its position on this issue at Stage 2.” (Para 93http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/56170.aspx)
Carole Ewart, Co-convener of the CFoIS said:
“ We are delighted that the Finance Committee has identified that people’s right to know is not as effective in 2012, as it was in 2002 when the law was passed, and 2005 when it came into force. It is now time for the Scottish Government to accept the Committee’s conclusions and the evidence provided and introduce the necessary amendments so Scottish FoI law is once more pre-eminent in the UK.”
For Further Information please contact:
Carole Ewart (Co-Convener – Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland)
or Chris Bartter (Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland) 07715 583 729