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Freedom of Information
A discussion paper that raises the prospect of extending the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act to more organisations was published yesterday.
It seeks views on extending the Act to cover:
- Contractors who provide services that are a function of a public authority
- Registered social landlords
- Local authority trusts or bodies set up by local authorities
Also today, Minister for Parliamentary Business Bruce Crawford announced that the Government would be pro-actively publishing Ministerial car travel and diary information.
In addition, the Minister also announced the publication of the latest Scottish Government Annual Report on request handling.
Mr Crawford said:
"The Scottish Government is committed to the principles that underpin Freedom of Information legislation. Principles of openness and transparency are essential parts of open democratic government and responsive public services.
"The public has a right to expect transparency from public organisations and from private organisations that perform public functions. The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act has helped open the door towards greater scrutiny of the workings of such organisations. But the Act's provisions do not include a number of organisations which many people believe should be covered - for example, contractors supplying services traditionally provided directly by a public authority, such as private prisons.
"Today's paper is recognition of those concerns - but it highlights the legal and policy considerations related to any extension of coverage.
"And the paper also recognises that any extension of coverage needs to be measured and appropriate. That is a particular consideration given the impact of the current global economic downturn on some sectors. No decision on extending coverage will be taken until we have considered responses to our discussion paper and weighed up all the necessary considerations.
"Furthermore, a formal consultation with any body proposed for coverage must take place prior to designation."
Mr Crawford also announced that, as part of the Government's drive towards greater transparency in government, Ministerial travel and diary information would be published on the Scottish Government website from today. He said:
"We believe that the people of Scotland have the right to more information about how Ministers spend their working days. That is why we have improved the way in which information is recorded and why we have decided to make that information freely available, the first administration in the UK to do so.
"This is a Government that works hard for the people of Scotland - all over the country."
The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (the Act) provides significant and important rights allowing access to recorded information. The Act came into force on January 1, 2005 and provides a statutory right of access to information held by Scottish public authorities.
These include, for example, the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament, local authorities, schools, colleges, NHS Scotland and the police. The Act also requires the proactive publication of certain information. Compliance with the Act is promoted and enforced by the Scottish Information Commissioner.