Freedom of information reform will end 'secret Scotland' says Anas Sarwar
A “spectre of sleaze” is overshadowing Scottish politics, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has said, ahead of the launch of a fresh paper on improving accountability.
The party is set to bring forward a bill to strengthen existing Freedom of Information (FOI) laws in a bid to end what it labels the “SNP’s secret Scotland”.
Proposed changes would extend the Freedom of Information Scotland Act to all bodies providing public services and create a presumption in favour of proactive publication of information.
It comes as the latest figures show 14 per cent of FOI responses in the last year were issues after the 20-day deadline.
Sarwar said: “When you have a government which actively seeks to avoid scrutiny and backbenchers who suspend their responsibilities in the name of party interest – then the system needs to be reformed.
“Committees have been ignored, processes run roughshod over and the responsibility to be truly accountable to both parliament, the press and the public has been ignored by SNP ministers.”
West Scotland MSP Katy Clark is to introduce a private members’ bill to reform FOI laws this session.
The proposals are set out in a paper by the party published on Tuesday which forms part of its plan to reform and boost support for the Union.
Sarwar said the proposals were “only the start of the fightback”.
Polling for the Scottish Information Commissioner earlier this year found three quarters of people believes FOI laws should be strengthened.
In particular, the public felt it was 'extremely' or 'very' important that information about privately-run but publicly-funded health and social care services was available.
Scottish Information Commissioner Daren Fitzhenry said: "The events of the last two years have highlighted the importance of transparency in how public bodies make decisions, and this is reflected in our research.
"However, it is essential that members of the public are aware of their rights to access public information on the issues that matter to them."
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