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Consultation on Extending the Coverage of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

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1. Introduction

Following exploratory discussions with stakeholders 1, in December 2009 the Scottish Government announced that it would consider extending the coverage of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 ('the Act') to the following organisations:

  • contractors who run privately managed prisons and provide prisoner escort services;
  • leisure, sport and cultural trusts and bodies used by local authorities;
  • the Glasgow Housing Association;
  • the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland;
  • contractors who build and maintain schools;
  • contractors who build and maintain hospitals; and
  • contractors who build, manage and maintain trunk roads under private finance contracts.

Section 5 of the Act gives the power to designate bodies by Order as a Scottish public authority for the purposes of the Act. Before making such an Order, we must consult the relevant bodies directly.

At this stage the Scottish Government has not reached firm conclusions on which bodies it would be appropriate to extend coverage to. We are particularly mindful of the importance of establishing whether coverage would place undue financial burdens upon bodies at a time of economic difficulties. Creating additional regulatory or financial requirements must be appropriate and proportionate.

This consultation paper therefore formally seeks the views of the bodies listed above (or their representative bodies) on their coverage by the Act, and the views of any other interested parties. Each section explores the issues raised with us to date about covering a particular type of body, presents our rationale for extending coverage, and asks certain questions.

The responses we receive to this consultation paper are therefore key and will directly contribute to the evidence base on which a decision will be reached.

At Annex A is a draft Order made under section 5 of the Act that, subject to the conclusions reached following the consultation, could be put before the Scottish Parliament. This is included to illustrate how coverage could be achieved and to invite comment on which bodies we understand would be covered by each definition. Where groups of bodies (rather than discrete bodies such as GHA or ACPOS) are proposed for coverage, a class-based definition has been drafted which describes the particular group. This will ensure that when bodies delivering a particular service change, new ones will automatically be covered (in respect of the relevant public services they are providing) and so the bodies brought under the Act will remain up to date as much as possible. The class descriptions should also be read in conjunction with the proposed thresholds e.g. in terms of contract value and duration which are intended to focus extension of coverage on those contractors responsible for delivering major projects.

At Annex B is a partial Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment which sets out, so far as is possible at this stage, the likely impact of coverage on the bodies proposed. In particular it describes the possible costs and benefits of extending coverage. It is however difficult to predict the volume of requests that might be received by a particular organisation and there are other key variables in determining the impact of coverage, such as how a body currently handles requests for information. We welcome any comments on the estimates it contains, and any comparable estimates of costs etc. The responses we receive to this consultation will therefore help develop a fuller Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment, which will also be published.

At Annex C are listed those bodies to whom we intend the draft Order to apply. Also listed are all other bodies with whom we are consulting.

At Annex D information is provided on how to respond to this consultation, how responses will be handled and the next stages of the process. When responding we would ask that you complete the Respondent Information Form which is included in this annex.