Scottish FOI Amendments Criticized as Too Narrow

8 June 2012

The Scottish government has proposed freedom of information law amendments that FOI activists say fall short.

Carole Ewart, co-convener of Campaign for Freedom of Information Scotland, wrote in reaction that it is “what isn’t in the bill that is the problem” and called it “a wasted opportunity.”

She said more quasi-governmental bodies need to be covered by the Scottish law. She cited “arm’s length organisations (ALOs), housing associations, voluntary organisations and private sector bodies that deliver public services” as being “just some of the categories missing from the newly published bill.”

“Despite three consultations, the clear view of the Scottish Information Commissioner, the opinion of the public and now with an absolute majority in parliament, this government has failed to extend the law’s coverage,” she wrote.

“That is not the action of a government committed to transparency,” according to Ewart. “And neither is the proposal to hide communications with the monarch or her heirs behind an absolute exemption– an amendment copied from Westminster.”

She explained:

This means, for example, that it will no longer be possible to seek information on royal attempts to influence policy. Or to investigate any communications between governments and the monarchy over, say, the award of honours.

Faster Historical Disclosure Sought

The bill “would bring all the country’s public authorities in line with the current Socttish government’s policy of publishing all closed histoircal records after 15 years rather than 30,” according tot he official announcement.

It also will make it easier to prosecute an organization which has deliberately altered, destroyed or concealed requested information.

Minister for parliamentary business Brian Adam said, “Our proposed bill will allow for greater flexibility in reducing the lifespan of exemptions, paving the way for more information to be made public earlier. The bill also makes the legislation stronger by making more effective the ability to bring a prosecution where requested information has been deliberately altered, destroyed or concealed.”

Adam also announced the addition of an A-Z index to the Scottish Government’s website. The index is intended to enable easier access to information published online by the Scottish Government, and demonstrates the huge amount and range of information already available on the website.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: ,

Filed under: What's New