FREEDOM OF INFORMATION NEEDS DRASTIC REFORM

SECRET SCOTLAND: Too much of country’s FOI law is not fit for purpose

Findlay - Neil+Findlay+CJjkOng3r8Em
Neil Findlay MSP

By Democrat reporter

Campaigners will say that too much of Scottish Freedom of Information law is not fit for purpose as they present a new report at a meeting in the Scottish Parliament tonight (Tuesday).

The Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland (CFoIS) has produced a line by line ‘traffic light’ report on the legislation, marking it with red, amber or green, and proposing improvements.

The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FoISA), became enforceable on 1 January 2005, and the report details how it should be reformed in 2020. The Parliament’s Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee is due to report soon on its scrutiny of the Act.

Carole Ewart, Convener of CFoIS, said: “We are rightly celebrating 15 years of this very important and welcome legislation, something Scotland should be proud of.

“But we need an Act that the country can continue to be proud of and unfortunately we have found that too much of the Act is not fit for purpose, including the kinds of bodies it covers and the kinds of exemptions allowed, not all of which are subject to the public interest test.”

The report wants to see FOI rights follow the public pound as part of a reformed and reinvigorated law and a strong culture of transparency and accountability, including more proactive publication.

The report marks many areas of the Act with an ‘amber traffic light’, where amendments are needed, as well as ‘green’ parts, which remain broadly fit for purpose.

The CFoIS has invited MSPs to a meeting tonight to discuss the findings.

UNISON logoUNISON Scotland will also be highlighting the impact of austerity cuts to public services on FOISA, including through cuts to staff numbers and increasing pressures on staff.

UNISON represents many staff working directly on FOI, as well as many who provide information for FOI responses to the team responding to requests.

Stephen Low, UNISON Scotland Policy Officer, said: “Our recent survey of members working in FOI showed that many are overworked and under pressure and we have asked the Committee to emphasise the importance of sufficient staff, training and resources to deliver on the public’s right to know.”

Neil Findlay MSP, pictured above right, who is chairing the meeting, said: “Tonight’s meeting is important as we celebrate 15 years of FOI law. However, this legislation requires drastic reform. It is vital for our democracy that FOI is exercised in the spirit of transparency. That is why CFoIS has set out a report with recommendations of where the legislation can be improved.”


6 thoughts on “FREEDOM OF INFORMATION NEEDS DRASTIC REFORM

  1. I agree with the campaigners. I asked Audit Scotland , a Scottish Government appointed body, to provide me with a full copy the report done into the Corruption on WDC and they refused to provide it quoting the current FOI legislation which they say allowed them to refuse me.

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  2. We have a story on that today in The Democrat. And we had a similar story from Dundee a few days ago. Scotland’s press have been starved of funds for investigation into public affairs.

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  3. The criminal withholding of information is another aspect of FOI that needs to be investigated in WDC.

    FOI was introduced not just here, but in other countries too, with the principal purpose of encouraging public openness – and to provide an external set of eyes onto public process.

    That is why it is a crime to deliberately withhold information that should have been disclosed.

    Do WDC deliberately withhold information that should be disclosed.

    I know what I think. But it’s a secret!

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  4. If Audit Scotland will not give Councillor Bollan a copy of their report into concerns about corruption in West Dunbartonshire maybe Joyce White will give him a copy.

    Given that Mrs White has raised issues about Councillor Bollan with the Standards Commission it is absolutely critical to Councillor Bollan’s defence that he has a copy of the Audit Scotland report.

    Mrs White MUST therefore give him and or his solicitor a copy of it.

    Moreover in raising concerns about improper procurement and the possible receipt of inducements Councillor Bollan should be thanked by Mrs White for raising the issues of concern . Shining a light, or asking for a light to be shone in dark places, is exactly what the public expect.

    By her actions Mrs White makes herself appear malicious and vindictive and part of a cover up.

    Indeed for her own reputation and standing one would think that the perception of being part of a cover up is something that she would wish to dispel, and dispel absolutely. This can only be done with openness.

    So message to Mrs White. You’ve raised formal legal complaints against Councilor Bollan. The complaints need to be defended. The Audit Scotland report is in existence. It says what it says, concludes what it concludes. It cannot be magically wished out of existence. And it can be requested in a court or tribunal hearing as a document required by Councilor Bollan in defence or in pursuance of legal action arising out of or in connection with Mrs White’s allegations against him.

    The stakes set by Mrs White could not be higher – and it may well be her who is found wanting.

    Oh what tangled web we weave when first we set out to deceive !

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  5. If Audit Scotland will not give Councillor Bolan a copy of their report into concerns about corruption in West Dunbartonshire maybe Joyce White will give him a copy.

    Given that Mrs White has raised issues about Councillor Bolan with the Standards Commission it is absolutely critical to Councillor Bolan’s defence that he has a copy of the Audit Scotland report.

    Mrs White MUST therefore give him and or his solicitor a copy of it.

    Moreover in raising concerns about improper procurement and the possible receipt of inducements Councillor Bolan should be thanked by Mrs White for raising the issues of concern . Shining a light, or asking for a light to be shone in dark places, is exactly what the public expect.

    By her actions Mrs White makes herself appear malicious and vindictive and part of a cover up.

    Indeed for her own reputation and standing one would think that the perception of being part of a cover up is something that she would wish to dispel, and dispel absolutely. This can only be done with openness.

    So message to Mrs White. You’ve raised formal legal complaints against Councilor Bolan. The complaints need to be defended. The Audit Scotland report is in existence. It says what it says, concludes what it concludes. It cannot be magically wished out of existence. And it can be requested in a court or tribunal hearing as a document required by Councilor Bolan in defence or in pursuance of legal action arising out of or in connection with Mrs White’s allegations against him.

    The stakes set by Mrs White could not be higher – and it may well be her who is found wanting.

    Oh what tangled web we weave when first we set out to deceive.

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  6. Can I just say that my only offence which appears to have merited a life ban from covering council affairs is to have asked for a proper place to sit at and to hear the proceedings properly. Additionally, when I was surrounded by a number of senior council officials, including Joyce White, trying to stop me speaking to the Provost, who is supposed to be in charge of council meetings, I asked a press officer (quietly) to bugger off. The Press Officer said what I was doing was “inappropriate”. Since when has a journalist asking a question or making a request been “inappropriate”?

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