Monday, January 14, 2013

Crunch week for FOI in Scotland as Parliament debates coverage

The Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland (CFoIS) has urged the Scottish Parliament to back a series of amendments to the Scottish Government's Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill. This Bill is to have its Stage 3 debate in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 16 January and a series of amendments are proposed to ensure FOI rights extend to public services provided by private, voluntary and arms-length bodies.

The CFoIS wants the Scottish Government to heed the concerns expressed by the Finance Committee's Stage One report. The Campaign is taking part in a briefing meeting for MSPs on Tuesday 15 January, the day before the Parliamentary debate, and will be circulating a written briefing outlining the need to amend this bill to reinstate eroded rights to information. The meeting will be chaired by Paul Martin MSP, and addressed by Carole Ewart of the CFoIS.

Carole Ewart, Co-Convener of the CFoIS, said:
"A number of MSPs, including members of the Finance Committee, have submitted amendments to this Bill, as the Scottish Government appears unable or unwilling to accept our arguments in favour of protecting our information rights."

The major reason why the Bill should be strengthened is to retrieve peoples's information rights lost as increasing outsourcing of our public services removes services from coverage. Neither the Scottish Government nor previous Scottish Executive Administrations have ever used their powers to add named bodies and categories of bodies to the list of organisations covered.

Amending the Bill is also necessary to meet the Scottish Government's own FoI principles, 1 and 2: that "the public's right to know remains an essential part of an open, democratic government and responsive public services" and FoISA "will be adjusted where it is necessary and sensible to do so".

Carole Ewart said:
"At a time when Audit Scotland estimates over 130 arms-length bodies are involved in delivering public services, and when the Scottish Government is proposing bills like the Procurement, and Community Empowerment Bills that will bring more bodies into public service delivery, it is very concerning that they seem oblivious to the threats these pose to everyone's right to know about how our cash is spent."


The Briefing for MSPs will be held in Committee Room 1 from 1.15pm on Tuesday 15 January.

A copy of the briefing sent to MSPs in advance of the debate is available from the CFoIS website

There is an email message available on the UNISONScotland website, that allows Campaign supporters to lobby their MSPs.

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