Inquiry needed to check if Parliament’s ‘openness’ principle still applies

The Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland (CFoIS) has called for an inquiry into the delivery of information rights in Scotland.

In a submission to the Scottish Parliament’s Independent Commission on Parliamentary Reform,
CFoIS says the inquiry should focus on delivering openness across the public services, as well as the practical delivery of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FoISA) and the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004. Evidence should be sought from those with experience of trying to access information to make a realistic assessment of what changes are needed in culture, law and practice.

Carole Ewart, Convener of the CFoIS said:
“The Scottish Parliament passed freedom of information legislation 15 years ago, so it is timely to have a review of whether the right remains robust or has been diminished. Case decisions and anecdotal evidence suggest there are problems with levels of organisational openness, failures to respond within deadlines, and the increasing number of organisations that deliver public services but which operate outside the scrutiny afforded by FoISA.”

CFoIS recognises that the drive for openness in the Parliament and across the 10,000 organisations that it funds and scrutinises, comes from founding principles, especially that the Parliament should be ‘open, accessible and accountable’. As access to information is a human right, we need an audit of whether our legislation is fit for purpose. This should include, recent jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, interpreting the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to fit Scotland and learning from the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on Access to Information.

Given the popularity of enforceable access to information rights with the public in Scotland, it is right that the Scottish Parliament listens and ensures that the right remains robust.

The CFoIS is currently carrying out its own research into access to information and further findings will be made to the Independent Commission and the public as they become available.

For further information, please contact:
Chris Bartter 07715 583 729 or Carole Ewart.

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