Freedom of Information laws to be strengthened
A BILL aimed at paving the way for more information to be made public, while significantly strengthening the deterrent against the deliberate destruction or concealment of information was introduced to the Scottish Parliament today.
Key elements of the Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill include greater flexibility in reducing the lifetime of exemptions and paving the way for more information to be made public earlier. The Bill also makes the legislation stronger by making more effective the ability to bring a prosecution where requested information has been deliberately altered, destroyed or concealed.
It is already Scottish Government policy to open most closed files with historical records at 15 years, rather than the traditional 30. The Bill would allow the Scottish Government to bring all Scottish public authorities in line with this policy.
Minister for Parliamentary Business and Chief Whip Brian Adam said: “This month marks the tenth anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act (Scotland) 2002 receiving Royal Assent. The Act is widely recognised as playing a significant part in making Scotland a more open, transparent and accountable society and as having been successfully implemented since coming into force in 2005.
“To ensure that the legislation remains fully effective, and in response to the need to strengthen two areas, I am introducing an Amendment Bill into Parliament.
“Our proposed Bill will allow for greater flexibility in reducing the lifespan of exemptions, paving the way for more information to be made public earlier. The Bill also makes the legislation stronger by making more effective the ability to bring a prosecution where requested information has been deliberately altered, destroyed or concealed.
“Scottish freedom of information legislation has justly earned a reputation for being rigorous in setting a high bar before exemptions can be applied as well as imposing strict response times. The amendments proposed today – which emphasise openness and increase the deterrent for illegally preventing disclosure – will ensure that Scottish legislation remains effective going into its second decade.”
Today also heralds improved accessibility to Scottish Government information with the launch of an A-Z index for the Scottish Government’s website. This index will enable easier access to information proactively published online by the Scottish Government, and demonstrates the huge amount and range of information already available on the website.
Minister for Parliamentary Business and Chief Whip Brian Adam also said: “The Scottish Government supports freedom of information as an essential part of open democratic government and responsive public services. We can be proud of our record in terms of compliance and proactive publication.
“Legislative changes announced today alongside the ever-increasing amount of information made available to the public demonstrate the Government’s commitment to openness and transparency which we see as an integral part of effective public administration.”
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