SNP urged to widen scope of FoI reform

The Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland has called on the Government to widen the scope of proposed reforms to the country's FoI legislation.

The group was responding to calls for evidence on the Scottish Government's proposed Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill.

In its evidence, seen by Scotland's Sunday Herald, the CFoIS calls for the law to be widened by including more public agencies and private and voluntary sector bodies that provide public services, such as housing associations and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland.

It urged the Scottish Government to follow the lead of the UK Government, which has extended the law to cover the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) and the Financial Ombudsman Service, and is considering similar plans for the Law Society, housing associations and Advertising Standards Authority.

Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie is also backing the calls, commenting: 'Far from being an open, transparent government, the SNP are increasingly showing disregard for freedom of information. These bodies spend the public pound without facing the public's right to scrutinize.

 

"The Bill is far too limited and should be extended to cover a wider range of government bodies currently not covered. The Scottish Liberal Democrats will be proposing amendments to the bill and campaigning to knock down these last bastions of secrecy.

'This campaign is right to focus on the timidity of the Bill as we have learned how Freedom of Information has a direct impact on everyone's day-to-day lives.

'A failure in the NHS led to lessons not being learned about patient deaths, the SNP government has tried to hide information on whether Scotland would be a part of the EU or not in an independent Scotland. Even this week we heard of a patient who missed cancer screening because of mishandling of patient records.

'The Bill must be extended. The financial and social costs involved from not extending the legislation are too great."

According to the Sunday Herald, the CFoIS believes that 'the only UK reform ‘cherry-picked' by Scottish ministers is the ‘regressive' move for a new exemption to freedom of information laws for the Queen and the next two in line to the throne".

Maurice Frankel, director of the UK Campaign for Freedom of Information, said: "It's a worrying development that in Scotland, where information rights have historically been more robust than in the UK, the new Bill adopts the UK's restrictive approach of removing information about the monarchy from access, but ignores the small but significant progress being made to extend the scope of the UK Act."

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