The UNISON Scotland response to the Scottish Parliament Finance Committ's call for evidence on the Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill is online now.
As a longstanding supporter of strong freedom of information legislation, UNISON Scotland is disappointed that the Scottish Government is making only minor changes via this Bill. It should use section 5 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) to extend FOISA to cover all public services.
The Scottish Government says that its aim is to “add strength and clarity to the existing legislation”. However, failing to ensure that freedom of information rights "follow the money" means the existing legislation is weaker and less clear than it should be for the growing number of public services delivered by private companies and other bodies not currently covered by FOISA.
The public should be able to access information about the public services they use and about public and political decisions that affect them, whatever type of body holds the information or provides the service. The use of section 5 to ensure this is long overdue.
We strongly support the call by the Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland for the Scottish Parliament to amend the Bill to extend FOISA in this way.
As the Committee knows, this (including a rolling programme of active review) was a key recommendation by Kevin Dunion, the first Scottish Information Commissioner, in a Special Report when he finished his final term of office earlier this year.
His successor Rosemary Agnew has also called on the Scottish Government to act in her July 2012 response to the Finance Committee on its call for evidence.
We hope that the Finance Committee will agree that it is wrong for Ministers to proclaim their commitment to FOI and its Six Principles and to argue that this Bill tackles weaknesses, while failing to use section 5 to protect the public's FOI rights.
See the full response here: