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Scotland’s Information Bill welcome – but improvements still needed.

Campaigners welcomed today’s publication of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Bill – but said it still needed improving. The Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland (CFOIinS) said:

The bill has a number of positive elements. We are particularly pleased that in several areas authorities will only be able to refuse a request if they can show that disclosure would cause ‘substantial prejudice’, a demanding test which will shake up existing assumptions. And the Scottish Information Commissioner who will enforce the Act will be more powerful than the Commissioner under the UK FOI Act.

But main changes that have been called for since the draft bill was published six months ago have not been made. Some exemptions are very broad and make it too easy to keep information secret. It should be made clear that factual information about policy decisions cannot be withheld and information about safety inspections should normally be disclosed. There should be a purpose clause. And we are concerned that the Executive has still not decided on the charging arrangements. It should drop its original proposals, which would mean that simple requests would be free but more complicated requests could costs hundreds of pounds, pricing information beyond people’s means. The bill should follow the UK Act’s approach, which prevents high charges being made.”

Further information is available from the CFOIinS on 0141 554 5161