Many organisations may be aware, and others not yet alert to the fact that a Scottish Government consultation has just closed, seeking views on further extending the coverage of FOISA, with a focus on those who provide services on behalf of the public sector.
The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA)
The full consultation description is here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/freedom-information-extension-coverage-consultation/
At the last meeting of the Third Sector Strategy Group the proposals were discussed and it was agreed that Edinburgh TSI would submit a succinct consultation response copied below:
We believe that the proposed extension is a ‘sledgehammer to crack at a nut’. Members of the public and all stakeholders are entitled to receive information on the provision of public services and this entitlement should be ‘blind’ to the nature, sector or legal form of the ‘provider’ of services.
However, to ask hard-pressed and already stretched third sector organisations to take on the responsibility of dealing with requests for information under FOISA is unnecessary, counter-productive, time consuming and would likely cause confusion amongst both organisations and members of the public. The necessary investment in training and awareness-raising would be, in itself, a waste of time and resources for all concerned.
The solution is a simple one; local authorities, Health Boards or other public bodies who contract-out services falling under FOISA regulations, should write into such contracts that they as the contracting authority can request from the contractor appropriate and proportionate information, should they receive requests from members of the public that require a response from organisations delivering that contract. Public bodies have the resources and policy frameworks required for dealing with FOISA requests. Using these existing channels for public enquiries, and seeking information from contractors for the public body’s FOISA team to then collate as a response to FOISA requests is a sensible and simple solution.
Fellow voluntary sector infrastructure bodies such as our friends at SCVO are taking a similar view to that expressed above and have developed an unrivaled depth of understanding around this issue.
Hopefully Scottish Government will listen and take a sensible approach.