Call for urgent review of the Freedom of Information Scotland Act

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Members of a new network dedicated to open government have highlighted concerns about legislation

31st July 2017 by Gareth Jones 1 Comment

Members of a new network dedicated to open government have called for an urgent review of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Scotland Act.

Open Government Scotland Network – which comprises over 200 charities, academics, trade unionists and campaigners from across the country – have made their call following accusations by journalists and other groups that the 2002 Act is being misused.

Concerns about the way that FOI requests are being managed and treated have been raised, with the levels of response to the requests also being highlighted.

Groups that have backed the letter include Common Weal, Plus Perth & Kinross and The Democratic Society.

Ruchir Shah, policy manager for the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), was one of those who initiated the letter and feels that a properly functioning law is necessary for assuring Scotland’s people of transparency in democratic decision-making.

He said: “Signatories of the letter represent interests from across Scottish society and our collective concerns have led us to believe the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 should be examined by the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee.

“It is also our view that effective FOI is merely the tip of the iceberg to ensure transparency and trust in Scotland’s public institutions. In due course, this may merit a parliamentary inquiry into the transparency of Scotland’s institutions, building on an initial examination of FOI by the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee.”

Matthew Rice, Scotland director of the Open Rights Group, said: “Freedom of Information is a cornerstone of democracy. Journalists, campaigners, and members of the public have used it to hold their public institutions to account for years with some of the most significant exposés in Britain, such as the MPs expenses scandal, coming from the simple idea of being able to ask a question of public institutions and get a clear answer. Now, the system is in need of a review to make sure it is fit for such a fundamental purpose.”

The letter has been sent to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee, who have requested advice on which legislation they should review in the coming parliamentary session.

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8th August 2017 by julia dave

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