On 8 December 2009 Bruce Crawford, the Minister for Parliamentary Business, confirmed that the Scottish Government is to consult on whether or not the scope of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) should be extended to cover bodies which, whilst not in the public sector, nevertheless provide public services.
Mr Crawford made the announcement at the 2009 Holyrood Freedom of Information Conference in Edinburgh.
The consultation will look at organisations such as:
- contractors engaged by local authorities to build and/or maintain schools, hospitals and roads
- sport, leisure and cultural trusts set up by local authorities
- private prisons
Echoing the view expressed by the Scottish Information Commissioner last December, following the publication of research commissioned by the Scottish Information Commissioner's Office, Mr Crawford said at the Conference:
"It is important that organisations who deliver key public services for the people of Scotland operate transparently so the public can be reassured we are getting high quality services and value for money. I am also sympathetic to the view that people should be able to 'follow' the expenditure of public money through their access to information, in particular in relation to PFI/PPP contracts which tend to be high value and long term."
Kevin Dunion, the Scottish Information Commissioner, has welcomed the announcement and has confirmed that he will "use the period of consultation to argue that the right to information is not an unreasonable burden. . . Freedom of information should follow the public pound."
The consultation process is to commence early in 2010.
How this could affect you
This consultation could potentially affect a large number of organisations by bringing them under the remit of the FOISA for the first time. If this were to happen, the affected organisations would be required to comply with the obligations set out in the FOISA insofar as they carry out services of a public nature. The information that they hold in respect of such services would therefore potentially be accessible by members of the public.
Taking part in the consultation may be your only opportunity to ensure that the views of your organisation are heard. Our specialist information management team can provide you with further information on what the implications would be for your organisation if the scope of the FOISA was extended to cover it, and assist in making representations to the Scottish Government as part of the consultation process so that the views of your organisation are taken into account.