Campaigners will say that too much of Scottish Freedom of Information law is not fit for purpose as they present a new report at a meeting in the Scottish Parliament tonight (Tuesday).
The Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland (CFoIS) has produced a line by line ‘traffic light’ report on the legislation, marking it with red, amber or green, and proposing improvements.
The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FoISA), became enforceable on 1 January 2005, and the report details how it should be reformed in 2020. The Parliament’s Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee is due to report soon on its scrutiny of the Act.
Carole Ewart, Convener of CFoIS, said: “We are rightly celebrating 15 years of this very important and welcome legislation, something Scotland should be proud of.
“But we need an Act that the country can continue to be proud of and unfortunately we have found that too much of the Act is not fit for purpose, including the kinds of bodies it covers and the kinds of exemptions allowed, not all of which are subject to the public interest test.”
The report wants to see FOI rights follow the public pound as part of a reformed and reinvigorated law and a strong culture of transparency and accountability, including more proactive publication.
The report marks many areas of the Act with an ‘amber traffic light’, where amendments are needed, as well as ‘green’ parts, which remain broadly fit for purpose.
The CFoIS has invited MSPs to a meeting tonight to discuss the findings.
UNISON Scotland will also be highlighting the impact of austerity cuts to public services on FOISA, including through cuts to staff numbers and increasing pressures on staff.
UNISON represents many staff working directly on FOI, as well as many who provide information for FOI responses to the team responding to requests.
Stephen Low, UNISON Scotland Policy Officer, said: “Our recent survey of members working in FOI showed that many are overworked and under pressure and we have asked the Committee to emphasise the importance of sufficient staff, training and resources to deliver on the public’s right to know.”
Neil Findlay MSP, who is chairing the meeting, said: “Tonight’s meeting is important as we celebrate 15 years of FOI law. However, this legislation requires drastic reform. It is vital for our democracy that FOI is exercised in the spirit of transparency. That is why CFoIS has set out a report with recommendations of where the legislation can be improved.”
For further information contact:
CFoIS: Carole Ewart Convener, 07768 794689
UNISON Scotland: Stephen Low, Policy Officer, 0141 342 2811 or 07956 852822
1. Tonight’s meeting at the Scottish Parliament is from 6pm-8pm in Committee Room 6. UPDATE: REPORT here https://unison-scotland.org/wp-content/uploads/Amending-FoISA-Final-21st-Jan-2020.pdf
2. The Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland was established in 1984 to improve public access to official information, to secure legal right to access information and to enforce that right. The initiative came from the Scottish Consumer Council. As we believe in the right of people to find out about how they are governed and how their services are delivered our work includes: ensuring access to information Acts are implemented effectively; deliver training, provide briefings, write submissions and offer comment/analysis; campaign on new and emerging issues requiring changes in practice/law.
3. UNISON Scotland is Scotland’s largest trade union.
Our recent response to the Scottish Government consultation on extending FOISA is here: https://unison-scotland.org/consultation-response-on-freedom-of-information-coverage-extension/
Our response to the Committee is here: https://unison-scotland.org/post-legislative-scrutiny-of-the-freedom-of-information-scotland-act-2002-june-19/ with our supplementary evidence here: https://www.parliament.scot/S5_Public_Audit/General%20Documents/UNISON_FOI_Post_Leg_Scrutiny_evidence_12Dec19.pdfpress