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Report on Post-Legislative Scrutiny of Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act published

A committee of MSPs has made recommendations for changes to FOISA

The Scottish Parliament's Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee has today published its report on its review of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA).

The report recognises that FOISA has improved the transparency and accountability of public bodies, and makes a total of 39 recommendations which the committee says are required for the legislation to keep pace with the changing nature of public service delivery, new forms of communication and the way in which the public accesses information.

The committee's work is independent of the Scottish Government and the Scottish Information Commissioner. Its report states that the Scottish Government should consult on the following suggested changes:

  • Introduce a ‘factors’ approach based on functional tests – e.g. quantifying the degree of public interest in the function / considering the cost to the public purse.
  • Introduce a ‘gateway clause’ which would automatically bring those elements of organisations fulfilling certain criteria within the scope of FOISA.
  • Introduce a statutory code to publish information.
  • Require certain key information, such as minutes of ministerial meetings, to be recorded.
  • Prevent reliance on confidentiality clauses between public authorities and contractors.

The report follows a year-long review of FOISA during which the committee received over 50 submissions from authorities, other organisations and members of the public, many of whom also gave oral evidence in autumn 2019. The report was produced before recent temporary changes to FOI law made in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

You can read the submissions and transcripts of the evidence sessions on the committee's webpages. The Commissioner's written submission is also available on our website.

Daren Fitzhenry says: "I have received the Committee's report and will be considering it in full.

"Since its introduction, the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act has empowered people to seek information on topics which matter to them, has enabled people to engage meaningfully with decision makers, and has provided a clear route via which to challenge non-disclosure.

"As I noted in my evidence to the committee last year, there are a number of ways I believe the legislation can be further strengthened, and I look forward to reviewing the Committee's report and seeing how its recommendations may be implemented."

Read the Committee's report online, or download a PDF, via the Scottish Parliament's Digital Publications website.

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