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07/06/13 11:00

FOI scrutiny extended

Order laid in Scottish Parliament

More organisations across Scotland will be open to scrutiny under Freedom of Information (FoI) legislation laid today in the Scottish Parliament, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced.

If agreed by Parliament, arm’s length bodies established by local authorities to provide cultural, sports and leisure services to the public will be subject to FoI law from April next year.

The order is being brought forward shortly after enactment of the Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) Act.

The Act strengthens Scottish Freedom of Information legislation by paving the way for more information to be made available earlier as well as enhancing power to prosecute any deliberate destruction of information more effective.

Ms Sturgeon said:

“It is important that bodies which spend taxpayers’ money are subject to scrutiny, including through Freedom of Information legislation.

“This new legislation, which is being laid in parliament today, will see us extend the scope of FoI coverage to more organisations, reflecting our commitment to continuously improve Scotland’s transparency.

“Under this Government we now make historic files available to the public after just 15 years – sooner than anywhere else in the UK. The Amendment Act has added strength and clarity to Scotland’s FoI legislation and we are now proposing to widen the scope of bodies covered by that legislation.

“Scotland already has the most robust Freedom of Information regime in the whole of the UK. It is my aim to ensure that this continues, and that our principles of openness, transparency and accountability set an example for other nations to aspire to.”

Notes to editors

Background

Further information on extending coverage of FoI legislation:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/About/Information/FOI/Coverage

The proposed order follows consultation in 2010 and extends FoI coverage to bodies established or created by Scottish local authorities whose functions on behalf of the local authorities include developing and/or delivering recreational, sporting, cultural or social facilities and activities.

This is the first order made under section 5 of Scottish Freedom of Information legislation. The section provides the power to designate as public authorities for the purposes of FoI bodies which appear to Scottish Ministers to exercise functions of a public nature, or that provide, under a contract made with a Scottish public authority, any service whose function is a function of the authority. Further information on the 2013 Amendment Act, which came into force on 31 May 2013 is available at:

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/51531.aspx

Key elements of the Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) Act include greater flexibility in reducing the lifespan which applies to certain exemptions provided for in the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (which provide for circumstances under which information may be withheld if it is requested) and paving the way for more information to be made public earlier. The Act also makes the legislation stronger by making more effective the ability to bring a prosecution where requested information has been deliberately altered, destroyed or concealed. An equivalent amendment has also just come into force for the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 to ensure the same prosecution timescales also apply to that legislation.

Further information on the Government’s consultation on revising the lifespans of certain exemptions is available at:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/05/6379

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on proposals to reduce the lifespans of certain exemptions. The Government currently opens most archived files at 15 years rather than the traditional 30 years. If, following this consultation, the proposals are made law these shortened lifespans will apply to all Scottish public authorities.

Contact: Nicola Macnaughton – 0131 244 2670