The campaigning body that was instrumental in achieving Freedom of Information laws in the UK and Scotland over 14 years ago, now says that the popular legislation is in danger of being dangerously eroded in Scotland.
The Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland (CFoIS) has today issued a Manifesto for the Scottish Parliament, calling on candidates to pledge themselves to a nine-point plan to reverse the erosion of rights caused by changes in public service delivery and the planned creation of a ‘two-tier’ system.
Carole Ewart, Convener of the CFoIS said “While Scotland hasn’t seen the up-front challenge to our information rights that has recently been fought off at UK-level, the consistent failure of Scotland’s governments ensure information rights are maintained when public services are hived-off to arms-length bodies, Housing Associations, PPP’s or NPD Trusts, or private companies, has meant an erosion of people’s right to ask for information.”
The Manifesto, which is being sent to all political parties and circulated to supporters, calls for an audit of all Arms Length Organisations (ALEOs) and for them to be drawn into the FoI net quickly, and for the law to be changed so that coverage details the public functions to be covered, as well as listing the public bodies.
“It is amazing that we still have no idea how many ALEOs exist in Scotland.” Carole says. “And a recent Scottish Local Government Committee report into them failed to even mention the issue of information rights. We need to ensure that FoI follows the public pound.”
The Manifesto also draws attention to the current Scottish Government consultation suggesting that grant-aided schools and independent special schools be given longer to respond to FoI requests Carole Ewart says this is a breach of a ‘universal’ rights. “To make people wait so much longer for their information will cause problems for individual requesters,” she says, “but we are concerned about the wider detriment if other public service providers – like housing associations, private companies or third sector providers start demanding special treatment too.”
“Independent polling proves Freedom of Information is widely known and backed by the Scottish public. It is an enforceable right that should be maintained. That’s why we are asking candidates to back the Nine Asks, and to support them within their party, and if elected, in Parliament.”
[For Editorial Information: The CFoIS Manifesto is available here]
For further information please contact:
Carole Ewart (Convener, CFoIS)
Chris Bartter (Communications, CFoIS) – 07715 583729