UNISON believes that Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) should be covered under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA). We welcome the Draft Order under Section 5, but are concerned that this extension is not only long overdue but has been delayed to such an extent that the proposed commencement date is now 1 April 2019, a full year later than in the December 2016 consultation on extending FOISA to RSLs.
We believe that the right to information is fundamental and should apply to all public services, however they are delivered. It is wrong that housing associations and other not-for-profit housing providers are not currently subject to FOISA. We welcome the inclusion of RSL’s subsidiaries in the Draft Order. Tenants and the general public should not be faced with two tiers of information rights. Therefore, of course subsidiaries should be included.
Freedom of information is crucial in a democracy and has been undermined by the public losing rights through the changing way services are delivered, including some services being outsourced / transferred to different providers. As the Scottish Information Commissioner has been saying for many years, information rights in this context should follow the public pound. Stock transfers from local authorities to housing associations added to this information deficit. Extending FOISA to cover RSLs is necessary and should be implemented urgently.