Scottish public authorities need to do more to prepare for the Freedom of Information Act, according to campaigners.
The Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland (CFOIinS) points to a number of recent reports each suggesting that UK public authorities are badly prepared for the Freedom of Information Act, which comes fully into force in January 2005. It believes that Scottish authorities are unlikely to be any better prepared. The surveys show that many authorities accept that they are under-prepared for the legislation and some are not planning to adopt measures in advance of the Act at all.
“The Act will have a profound effect on the work of public authorities. If they don’t take immediate steps to prepare for it, it will trip them up when it comes into force. They will get into unnecessary disputes with people applying for information, perhaps leading to enforcement action from the Information Commissioner. Ultimately they will be forced to disclose information which they should never have refused, having succeeded only in damaging their public reputation” a Campaign spokesperson said.
The Campaign is calling on the Scottish Executive’s Freedom of Information Implementation Group (FOIIG) to do more to publicise the legislation. It is also calling for the group – which is made up of exclusively of officials – to widen its membership to include members from non-governmental organisations and independent experts. It wants it follow the approach of the UK government, which has set up a committee made up of officials and NGOs, including press representatives, to advise ministers on implementing the UK Freedom of Information Act.
Note to Editors
The Campaign was addressing the ninth meeting of the FOIIG, which met in Edinburgh today [Friday 26 September 2003]. A copy of the presentation is attached.
Sunday 28 September is International Right to Know Day when open government groups across the world are calling on governments to take action to improve the public’s right to official information. See: http://www.aip-bg.org/~foianet/rkd.htm.
The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 will come fully into force in January 2005, at the same time as the UK Freedom of Information Act 2000.
Further information is available from the CFOIinS on 0141 554 5161