Freedom of Information Reform (Scotland) Bill Consultation

Overview —

A response to the Members’ Bill supported by Katy Clark MSP on the reform and extension of FOI legislation


Craig Dalzell

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Common Weal has championed freedom of information and government transparency since our inception. It is absolutely vital for the security of a democracy that decisions are made openly and can be scrutinised. Politicians and those with power often dislike such transparency – if only because it is effective at uncovering their own failures – but this is all the more reason to insist on it and to push back against its restriction or misuse.

We welcome this Members’ Bill designed to increase transparency as well as the steps that the Scottish Government has taken since its launch to adopt many of its principles, however we should be clear that Common Weal supports a “Glass Wall” approach to transparency whereby FOI legislation (I.e. the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act, or FOISA) should ultimately be expanded to cover all uses of public money, whether spent “in house” by a public body, is outsourced to a private company or is used to provide a public service by any other means. We simultaneously campaign for the statutory duty for the pro-active publication of all information that could conceivably be published under current or future expanded FOISA legislation such that the actual, practical effect is that FOI requests become one means of locating already public information rather than the sole means of uncovering information and bringing it into the public domain. The limit of democratic transparency cannot and should not be the ability to frame a question in such a way that it reveals the desired information.

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