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Sarwar to pledge freedom of information law overhaul to end ‘secret Scotland’

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar will pledge an overhaul of freedom of information laws (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar will pledge an overhaul of freedom of information laws (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Scottish Labour is set to pledge an overhaul to freedom of information (FOI) laws in order to improve Government transparency.

Party leader Anas Sarwar will announce the plan as he launches the second of a series of papers setting out Labour’s proposals to reform and renew the union in Edinburgh on Wednesday.

Mr Sarwar will call on Holyrood to strengthen the FOI legislation by extending it to all bodies that provide a public service and create a presumption in favour of proactive publication of public information.

Doing so will put an end to “secret Scotland”, he said ahead of the launch.

Labour MSP Katy Clark has revealed she intends to introduce a Private Member’s Bill to adapt the laws.

Mr Sarwar says the reform can be a “part of the fight back” against a “culture of secrecy”.

He said: “The people of Scotland deserve a Scottish Parliament that is open and transparent for all.

“However, when you have a Government which actively seeks to avoid scrutiny and backbenchers who suspend their responsibilities in the name of party interest, then the system needs to be reformed.

“Committees have been ignored, processes run roughshod over, and the responsibility to be truly accountable to both Parliament, the press and the public has been ignored by SNP ministers.

“All the while, a spectre of sleaze has cast its shadow over Scottish politics.

“We can’t allow a culture of cover-up to weaken the faith of the people of Scotland in their Parliament.

“That’s why today I am outlining a series of reforms to end the SNP’s secret Scotland and strengthen Scottish democracy.

“This much-needed reform of freedom of information law is only the start of the fight back.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland already has the most open and far-reaching FOI legislation in the UK. In addition to responding to over 4,000 requests in the last year the Scottish Government proactively publishes all responses, going beyond what is legally required of us, and in addition we regularly publish a huge volume of information across all areas of policy and government activity.

“All public bodies are already covered by freedom of information law and we are currently considering the extension of FOISA to additional organisations providing public services.

“Furthermore, we have plans already in place to consult later this year to gather views on how access to information rights can be further protected and strengthened in Scotland.”