The Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland (CFoIS) is issuing a call to action to protect and strengthen the public’s enforceable right to access information
A call has been made for the public's right to information to be strengthened in Scotland.
Scotland’s Public Information Forum will meet today (28 September) to celebrate International Right to Know Day (IRKD) and discuss how transparency and accountability in the design, delivery and funding of public services makes Scotland fairer and safer.
Civil society instigated this annual day of celebration and scrutiny, which has been supported by UNESCO since 2015. In 2019, UN General Assembly proclaimed 28 September as the annual International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI).
UNESCO’s theme for 2021 is to highlight the role of access to information laws and their implementation to ‘build back strong institutions for the public good and sustainable development, as well as to strengthen the right to information and international cooperation in the field of implementing this human right.’
The journalist Rob Edwards is the keynote speaker at the forum and he will address the challenge of ‘COP26: its organisation in Glasgow and impact on climate change’.
Attendees will hear reports from the Scottish Information Commissioner, the Scottish Government and civil society. IRKD also sees the launch of the Campaign for Freedom of Information’s drive to progress the Scottish Parliament’s decision of 2018 to extend the number of organisations covered by The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FoISA) and to deliver the legislative reform initiated in 2017 which resulted in a detailed inquiry by the Public Audit and Post legislative Scrutiny Committee. MSPs can ensure delivery of both commitments, concurrently.
Carole Ewart, convener of CFoIS, said: “It is essential that parliament progresses the detail of legal reform so we have updated and robust legislation in place by 2022 which is 20 years since Scotland’s first Freedom of Information Act was approved. Given the dramatic changes in digital communication and diversification in how publicly funded services are delivered, we must ensure enforceable rights and duties deliver the degree of transparency and accountability envisaged by MSPs in 2002.
“Parliament can quickly agree to extend the type of organisations covered by FoI law so there is an enforceable duty to provide information to requestors. The additional designated bodies will be automatically covered when the law is updated.”
In June 2017 the Scottish Parliament unanimously voted for post-legislative scrutiny of FoISA which resulted in the publication of a report in May 2020. In June 2018, the Scottish Parliament agreed that the Scottish Government should consult on proposals to further extend coverage of FoI law, for example, to companies providing services on behalf of the public sector.
The consultation was launched in 2019 and focused on identifying the potential range of organisations providing services on behalf of a Scottish public authority and specific candidates for designation as well as the potential for extension to organisations which exercise functions of a public nature. For example private care homes.