Politics / Wishart supports ‘ground-breaking’ Freedom of Information reform proposals

PROPOSALS to strengthen and extend Scotland’s current Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation are supported by the Liberal Democrats including Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart.

Should reform proposals brought forward by Labour MSP Katy Clark ever become law, then all bodies delivering public services – including local organisations such as the Shetland Charitable Trust and those running art, amenity and recreation services – would fall under FOI legislation.

The proposed Freedom of Information Reform (Scotland) Bill currently has 24 supporters in the parliament, with no signatures yet from either the SNP or the Scottish Greens.

The bill also seeks to increase accountability and transparency of public services including the proactive publication of information.

It further seeks to keep pace with the tendency of organisations outsourcing public services to bodies that currently do not have to adhere to FOI legislation.

A recent consultation showed that 74 per cent of respondents were in favour of the proposals, which are also fully supported by the Scottish information commissioner.


Wishart described it as “essential to inject transparency back into government”.

She said her party would go further and demand Scotland to sign up to the Tromsø Convention which provides a general right of access to official documents held by public authorities.

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart. Photo: Shetland News.

“Freedom of information legislation was ground-breaking when Scottish Liberal Democrats first introduced it 20 years ago,” she said. “Over time, however, the SNP have steadily undermined the legislation.

“The proposed changes in Labour’s bill are a step in the right direction and this really matters because we’ve seen Covid WhatsApps deleted, the will for confidentiality in the ferries fiasco over the needs of islanders, and the government’s collapsed deposit return company exempt from FOI.

“To fix our broken politics Scottish Liberal Democrats would expand FOI, introduce a new duty to record to end the culture of unminuted meetings, and ensure Scotland keeps pace with international best practice by joining the Tromsø Convention.”

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Asked why Green MSPs have not signed the bill proposal yet, the party’s Highlands and Islands MSP Ariane Burgess said it was early days in the legislation process.

However, party members are due to meet with Katy Clark to learn more about her proposals.

“Freedom of Information is one of the most important advances that has been made for transparency and good governance in decades, and has led to countless stories that some would rather were kept in the shadows,” Burgess said.

“The Scottish Greens have always pushed for the legislation to be updated and to go further where appropriate, and we will always work with others in good faith to do so.”

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