28th September is the UN’s International Day of Universal Access to Information (IDUAI). Recognised by UNESCO since 2015, it has been celebrated by civil society since 2002, when Right to Know Day was first established in Sofia (Bulgaria), during the foundational meeting of the Freedom of Information Advocates Network FOIAnet. In 2020, the Day’s focus is on to the right to information in times of crisis and on the advantages of having constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information to save lives, build trust and help the formulation of sustainable policies through and beyond the COVID-19 crisis. Access to information has been recognised as a fundamental right by multiple international human rights bodies, including the UN Human Rights Committee, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights.
CFoIS has published a briefing on the case for deleting Section 36 of the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill which is currently being considered at the Scottish Parliament. The briefing explains that the proposed new legal provisions preventing publication of information by Environmental Standards Scotland are entirely unnecessary as the existing exceptions within the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EISRs) are sufficient. Section 36 is simply unnecessary and the impact will be in conflict with human rights law and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It useful to remember that both human rights and SDG compliance are part of the Scottish Government’s National Performance Framework (NPF). Briefing.
Accessing Accountability The Scottish Government’s report on its compliance with the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FoISA) during COVID-19 is the subject of scrutiny today by the COVID-19 Committee of the Scottish Parliament (2nd September). The bi-monthly reports are required by Scotland’s Coronavirus Acts. CFoIS has prepared a briefing for MSPs which is available HERE. CFoIS welcomes this reporting process and MSP scrutiny as it provides transparency and accountability in the conduct and impact of Government during the pandemic.
Good News! MSPs at the Scottish Parliament have restored FoISA response timescales to 20 days and for internal reviews to 20 days too. This is a significant and welcome decision. Additionally, MSPs have: specified a ‘public interest’ be applied when the Scottish Information Commissioner is considering appeals relating to COVID-19; requires regular reports on Scottish Government FoI practice. Watch out for further updates. FoISA is the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.
FoI Law is set to change following publication of the Inquiry Report of the Public Order and Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee of the Scottish Parliament. CFoIS welcomes the report and acknowledges the Committee’s evidence led conclusions on a range of issues including: increasing the range of publicly funded bodies covered, the need to escalate pro-active publication, the necessity of ensuring correspondence by social media is properly captured for future disclosure and the essential nature of record keeping and record management. CFoIS agrees that there needs to be consultation on the detail of the new legislation as, given some of the Committee’s recommendations, there is a danger that a complex system is created for FoI rights whereas the current system benefits from simplicity.
As part of our drive to promote the right to official information to maintain transparency and accountability during the COVID-19 emergency, CFoIS has produced a briefing for civil society. The right of people to find out about how they are governed and how their services are delivered remains.
The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 – see our latest CFoIS Briefing on the impact of the legislation on FoI rights and access updates on our COVID-19 FoI Initiative. Read our Briefing for MSPs to inform debate on the Bill. CFoIS thanks our public service workers for their hard work, courage and service.
Our new briefing ‘Names of Publicly-Owned Companies Remain Confidential‘ is now avilable which explains how a simple request for information became a complex and lengthy matter.
CFoIS launched its report on reforming the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 on 21st January 2020 at an event at the Scottish Parliament. The report is available here.
13/01/2020 – The Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland (CFoIS) has prepared a submission to inform the deliberations of the UN Human Rights Committee on the ‘List of issues prior to reporting’ (LOIPR) for the United Kingdom on 8th March 2020 at its 128th session.
In 2020, CFoIS celebrates the 15th Birthday of The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act (FoISA). FoISA came into force on 1st January 2005 although it was passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2002. During the next 15 years CFoIS wants FoI rights to flourish. In 2020 CFoIS believes FoISA must be reformed to restore its original strength and to ensure it is nimble enough to adapt to how information is stored and used as well as how communications happen between decision makers.
The report on Post legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 was agreed in March 2020 but publication has been delayed. Get updates at the Public Audit and Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee at https://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/111249.aspx