Public Law

Last Friday finally saw the launch of the Scottish Government’s consultation on the proposed Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill which should involve a number of amendments being made to FOISA.

Those changes include:

  • Reducing the period after which information becomes a ‘historical record’ (and therefore no longer subject to specific exemptions) from 30 years to 15 years. The reduced period of 15 years would apply to all exemptions currently subject to the ’30 year rule’ except those conferred by section 36 (confidentiality) and section 41(a) (communications with her Majesty) exemptions.
  • Increasing the period in which a prosecution might be brought of an offence under s65 of the Act (i.e. an offence involving intentionally altering or destroying material to prevent disclosure under FOISA) from 6 months to 12 months, starting from the date upon which the wrongful actions occurred. This change is intended to address the practical difficulties involved in bringing prosecutions when it can be up to ten months before the matter comes to the Scottish Information Commissioner’s office and is discovered.

The proposed changes appear to be sensible and fairly uncontroversial. There is no proposal to extend FOISA to include a wider range of organisations (as had been mooted previously) or to make any more controversial changes such as the introduction of fees for access to information or any changes to the terms of the individual exemptions.

The decision to embark upon a limited reform of FOISA (for the time being at least) is something that was announced by the Scottish Government at the end of last year.

The consultation is open for responses until 8 March 2011.