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

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F: The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (' ACPOS')

1. Organisation considered for coverage

1.1 ACPOS oversees and coordinates the direction and development of the Scottish Police Service. It is the collective organisation of Chief Constables, Deputy Chief Constables, Assistant Chief Constables and Senior Police Staff from the eight Scottish police forces, the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, the Scottish Police College and the Assistant Chief Constable of the British Transport Police (Scotland).

1.2 It is constituted as a company limited by guarantee and also has charitable status for its work which benefits policing and the community. Its key aims are:

  • To promote greater partnership working, including central and local government and other appropriate organisations and individuals;
  • To promote leadership excellence;
  • To assist in setting the police agenda in Scotland by providing independent, professionally led and strategic policing opinions on key issues;
  • To consult with relevant partners on matters relating to or affecting the policing function in Scotland.

2. Case for coverage

2.1 ACPOS receives public funding of £314,000 per annum from the Scottish Government. Its members are public servants. It undertakes work of a public nature, having oversight and leadership as it does of policing in Scotland. Under its Memorandum of Association of 2007, a key objective is to promote, for the benefit of the public of Scotland, the efficiency and effectiveness of policing in Scotland.

2.2 In January 2009 the Scottish Parliament's Public Audit Committee expressed concerns (already made by the Justice Committee, the Auditor General for Scotland and HMICS) about the transparency and accountability of ACPOS, in particular that it 'may only effectively be held to account via local police authorities' scrutiny of their own chief constable's activity' 2.

Would coverage enhance transparency and accountability?

2.3 ACPOS already works within the spirit of the Act and responds to reasonable requests for information when possible. Extending coverage would put this position on a statutory footing, and require ACPOS to develop a Publication Scheme setting out what information they would proactively make available. Currently ACPOS receives about 5 requests each year, and also provides strategic guidance to police forces on their handling of several hundred requests each year.

Would coverage be measured and proportionate?

2.4 The impact for ACPOS of extending coverage is mitigated by their already detailed knowledge of the Act. They have a Freedom of Information Coordinator in place to assist police forces in meeting the requirements of the Act, who is part of a Media/Communications Unit comprising an Intranet/Internet Administrator and general secretariat support.

3. Conclusions

3.1 In view of the above it is the Scottish Government's view that there are strong principled arguments in favour of bringing ACPOS within the requirements of the Act. Inclusion would ensure that the professional voice of police leadership in Scotland is open, transparent and accountable.

3.2 The Scottish Government is aware of concerns about the possible burdens of being subject to the Act. The Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment looks at this in more detail and draws some initial conclusions about any additional burden. We are particularly mindful of the importance of establishing whether coverage would place undue financial pressures upon bodies at a time of economic difficulties. Responses to this consultation will therefore provide key evidence for concluding whether extending the coverage and creating additional regulatory or financial requirements would be appropriate and proportionate. A final conclusion will not be reached by Scottish Ministers until the consultation has concluded.

4. Consultation

We invite comments on any of the points made above, and also on the Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment at Annex B which discusses the possible impact on extending coverage to the bodies concerned.

In particular we invite you to consider the following:

  • Are there any factual inaccuracies in our analysis?
  • Is there a case either for or against extending coverage to ACPOS that you wish to make?
  • Are you able to provide any evidence to support your arguments?
  • Are there any other points that you wish to make, particularly on the partial Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment at Annex B?