The Scottish Executive has today announced the outcome of its review of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act. The main conclusion is that there will be no change to the fees regulations under the Scottish Act. These are significantly more generous to applicants than the existing UK fees regulations and the fact that the Scottish Executive is content to leave them as they are, after carrying out a thorough consultation, indicates a remarkably more positive approach to the issue than the UK government.
Minister for Parliamentary Business, Margaret Curran said:
"We will not be revising the Fee Regulations at this stage. The Review did not provide conclusive evidence to underpin any decisions on changes to the Fee Regulations at this point. However, I want to ensure that Freedom of Information is properly striking a balance between encouraging use of the Act by the public in making requests for information, but not imposing an unreasonable burden on authorities in their compliance with FOI. I will therefore be initiating comprehensive work on determining how the Fee Regulations are working in practice across Scotland and if they are striking the right balance for public authorities and people making requests."
The Review's other conclusions are:
Extending the coverage of Freedom of Information to organisations which are not Scottish public authoritiesRead the full announcement
"It has always been our intention to use the power to extend coverage when appropriate and proportionate, and the Review has gathered initial views on what bodies could be considered for coverage...I will therefore be asking officials to examine in detail the many strong but competing arguments in relation to extending the coverage of the Act, and to finalise the conditions for coverage and test these against the suggested bodies throughout Summer 2007. We will consult directly with those bodies which Ministers decide to be suitable for inclusion under the Act by the end of 2007.
Removing unnecessary prohibitions to the disclosure of information
"The Scottish Ministers are committed to reducing those laws that prohibit disclosure of information. I am therefore pleased to say that we will remove unnecessary existing prohibitions on disclosure of information which are currently contained in other older legislation."
Updating the list of Scottish public authorities
"Schedule 1 to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act lists all the Scottish public authorities for the purposes of the Act. It is clearly important that this list is kept up-to-date where Scottish public authorities have been created or have ceased to exist, and we will therefore be carrying out an exercise to ensure that this is the case."