Warnings that Scotland lagging behind England on FoI

Scotland the not-so brave - how Freedom of Information is being held back norh of the border

The Scotsman has  reported on concerns that Scotland risks becoming a more “secretive state” than England.

The Scottish Information Commissioner,  Kevin Dunion has been quoted as calling on the Holyrood Government to follow the example set by Westminster following the launch of a consultation by the Cabinet Office in Whitehall on how the Freedom of Information Act could be extended to better open up the public sector.  The web-based consultation, includes proposals to increase the amount of data proactively published online in England, including specific sentences handed to criminals, hospital success rates in treating certain illnesses and results about how well schools are doing in individual subjects.

While Scotland does publish detailed figures about the sentencing handed out by courts, the UK’s proposals to proactively publish web details about GP and hospital performance and prescribing go, the Scotsman reports “further than the information currently available in Scotland.”

It comes following the decision by the Scottish Government in January to abandon plans to extend Freedom of Information legislation to  cover companies that build and run schools, hospitals, prisons and roads; trusts set up by local authorities to run leisure and cultural activities; Glasgow Housing Association and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland.

Responding to the developments south of the border, Kevin Dunion concluded:

“I am very interested in the UK government’s initiatives, which are based on the presumption that information which the government holds should usefully be made available to everyone. The challenge in Scotland is for the government’s recently announced digital strategy to keep up the pace.”

Derek Manson-Smith, co-convener of the Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland meanwhile warned that Scotland now risks lagging behind the rest of the county, arguing:

Unless the Scottish Government reinstates its dropped proposals to extend the scope of the act to public service contractors and other bodies, it risks falling behind Westminster at a time when the UK government is increasing access to public information.”

It’s a view shared by the Senior SNP MSP John Wilson, the deputy convenor of Holyrood’s economy committee who concluded that

“The Scottish Government can’t be seen to lag behind in relation to the open access of information.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government told the Scotsman, “The work of government in Scotland is now more open and transparent than ever before, as a result of actions taken by this administration.”

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