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Public Works is UNISON Scotland's campaign for jobs, services, fair taxation and the Living Wage. This blog will provide news and analysis on the delivery of public services in Scotland. We welcome comments and if you would like to contribute to this blog, please contact Dave Watson d.watson@unison.co.uk. For other information on what's happening in UNISON Scotland please visit our website.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Making access to information a real right - @CampaignFoI event

Human rights laws could be used to get round problems with Scottish Freedom of Information (FoI) legislation. 

When you think of human rights, access to information may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but being able to find out what public bodies are doing in our name is in fact absolutely essential.

Freedom of Information (FoI) campaigners in Scotland will focus on the connection, and how to make use of it, at a free event to mark International Right to Know Day (IR2KD) later this month. 

The day, on 28 September, has been celebrated around the world for 11 years. 

The Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland says IR2KD is “rooted in the belief that the right to know is a human right - but is also a vehicle for accessing other rights, such as forming an opinion, participating in free and fair elections and in public affairs generally.” 

But CFoI in S warns that in Scotland there are problems connecting human rights to the operation of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA). 

This is because of a “confusing and unhelpful ‘rights’ landscape.” 

Just one example shows why it is difficult for members of the public to navigate their way through the complexities and why it may be worth using human rights law to gain information currently refused under FOISA.

Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) are covered by the Human Rights Act 1998, so must comply with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Article 10 of the ECHR is the ‘right to form an opinion and to receive and impart information.’ 

RSLs are also now regarded as public authorities for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EISRs). But they are not covered by FOISA. 

The CFoI in S has joined with the Centre for the Study of Human Rights Law at Strathclyde University, to organise the free event, in Glasgow, on Friday 26 September. 

Issues will include compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (looking at rights to form an opinion and to take part in public affairs). Key speakers will look at decisions of the Scottish Information Commissioner and human rights law, cases from Europe and the UK Supreme Court, and how to progress rights, including what this means for campaigners in Scotland. 

Full details, including how to book, are here 

Programme here:

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