By Hamish Macdonell
Ministers in Scotland have drawn up a list of hundreds of Scottish organisations that could become covered by freedom of information provisions.
The Scottish executive is to contact a range of bodies – including independent schools, charities and even newspapers – before deciding whether to make them subject to the freedom of information (Scotland) act (FOISA).
Margaret Curran, minister for parliamentary busin-ess, revealed the move following the publication of a review into FOISA. She said that she would closely examine the fee structure, but stressed that she saw no need to introduce similar restrictions to those being considered by UK ministers.
She said, however, that she would consider bringing organisations currently exempt from FOISA to be covered by the act.
“Ministers have the power to bring other organis-ations which are not Scottish public authorities within the coverage of the act.
“It has always been our intention to use this pow-er when appropriate and proportionate. The review did not provide conclusive evidence to underpin any decisions on changes to the fees system.”
On the issue of fees, she added: “It is important FOISA strikes a balance between encouraging use of the act by the public while not imposing an unreasonable burden on authorities. We will be looking in more detail at how the fee regulations are working in practice across Scotland."
The possible expansion of the Scottish FOIA foll-ows controversy over the decision by Glasgow city council to create a charitable trust, Culture and Sport Glasgow, to manage the council’s leisure facilities. While the council is covered by FOISA, the charitable trust is not.
But sources close to Curran said that she was prepared to change the law to include charitable trusts.
She will consult on a large list of organisations that were suggested by the public to be included in FOISA. Charities that receive public funds, private prisons, Network Rail, watchdogs and ombudsmen, and Creative Scotland, the national arts body are likely to be brought within the act.
Other organisations on the list include independ-ent schools, which are charities that receive a small amount of public money, and newspapers, which are private companies.
A spokesman for Scotland’s information commiss-ioner, who regulates FOISA, said that he was pleased the Scottish executive had not proposed any major changes to the fee regime, adding that it “made sense” to keep the bodies covered by the act under review.
Hamish Macdonell is Scottish political editor of The Scotsman, where another version of this article first appeared.
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‘Secret Scotland’ forced open by FOISA regulator