Secretive SNP block FOI reform

28 Nov 2023
Willie Rennie MSP

Scottish Liberal Democrats today said the SNP Government “is wedded to secrecy” after ministers announced that they won’t introduce any primary legislation to update information rights before the end of the current Parliament in 2026 and kicked other reforms into the long grass.

In its response to a consultation on the future of Freedom of Information legislation, the Scottish Government:

  • Refuses fresh legislation to cover the use of WhatsApp, preferring guidance, despite the deletion of Covid WhatsApps and a Scottish Liberal Democrat investigation finding WhatsApps have only been released under FOI on two occasions.
  • Refuses to give the Parliament more powers to determine who is subject to FOI, as requested by the Scottish Information Commissioner.
  • Refuses to match Irish FOI legislation which clamps down on confidentiality clauses between public bodies and their contractors.

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie said:

“This SNP Government is wedded to secrecy.

“Meaningful reform is being stopped dead in its tracks because ministers don’t want to close the loopholes they have been using to dodge scrutiny. Nobody will be fooled by the promise of further reviews and consultations designed to kick transparency into the long grass.

“Freedom of information legislation was groundbreaking when Scottish Liberal Democrats first introduced it twenty years ago. What was supposed to be the beginning has been steadily unpicked by a shameless SNP Government.

“It is essential to inject transparency back into government. This really matters because we’ve seen Covid WhatsApps deleted, the needs of islanders relegated below confidentiality in the ferries fiasco and the government’s collapsed deposit return company exempt from FOI.

“To fix our broken politics we would expand FOI, introduce a new duty to record to end the culture of unminuted meetings, and ensure Scotland keeps pace with international best practice by joining the Tromso Convention.”