Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Scottish Government announces consultation on possible extension of FOI (Scotland) Act

The Scottish Government has today (8 December) announced that it plans to consult on whether the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act should be extended to the following bodies:
  • Contractors who build and maintain hospitals
  • Contractors who build and maintain schools
  • Contractors who run privately managed prisons and provide prisoner escort and court custody services
  • Contractors who operate and maintain trunk roads under private finance contracts
  • The Glasgow Housing Association
  • The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland; and
  • Bodies used by local authorities to provide leisure, culture and sport services.
A report containing the Scottish Government's response to the earlier discussion paper on the subject has also been published here.

Speaking at the 2009 Holyrood FOI Conference, Minister for Parliamentary Business Bruce Crawford said:
"Responses to a discussion paper which looked at the options for extending coverage of the FOI Act beyond the public sector supported the principle of greater openness. I now intend to formally consult with a range of organisations about whether it is appropriate for them to be covered by FOI.

"It is important that organisations who deliver key public services for the people of Scotland operate transparently so the public can be reassured we are getting high quality services and value for money. I am also sympathetic to the view that people should be able to 'follow' the expenditure of public money through their access to information, in particular in relation to PFI/PPP contracts which tend to be high value and long term.
The Scottish Information Commissioner has welcomed the announcement:
Mr Dunion says "I am pleased that the public's right to information is being protected and in some cases extended by the Scottish Government's proposals to bring bodies like local authority trusts, private prisons and PPP contractors within the scope of the Freedom of Information Act.

I will use the period of consultation to argue that the right to information is not an unreasonable burden. There is no evidence of any material damage to commercial interests or public procurement from FOI disclosures in Scotland over the past 5 years. It needs to be accepted that where substantial sums of public money are being expended then the public should have right to know. Freedom of information should follow the public pound."
Scottish Government news release here and SIC release here.


kevtheref said...

This does not report the concerns raised by Kevin Dunion and Lord Wallace that by including GHA as a named entity it is ignoring the other Housing Associations/RSLs. As Lord Wallace said, "they have had five years to prepare for FOISA". Kevin Dunion also spoke of his disquiet around the non inclusion of the GHA second stage transfer RSLs who will have tenants rights removed once they become smaller RSLs. THe Minister spoke of the new Social Housing Charter that will require all RSLs and landlords to act within the spirit of FOISA but given the comments from the Scottish Housing Regulator, these are unlikely to be enforced by them!

Katherine Gundersen said...

Thanks very much for the comment. Interesting to know what was actually said at the conference about not including other RSLs.