Welcome to the Public Works blog.

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.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Support campaign to protect and extend FOI rights

Freedom of Information rights need to be defended at UK and Scottish levels, with action vital in the next couple of weeks.

The Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland is urging supporters to tell the Scottish and UK governments how essential FoI is and to back the campaign’s crowdfunding bid.

A shocking attack on FoI by the UK Government is underway, while in Scotland plans to extend legislation to cover some new bodies are feeble in the extreme.

Despite strong support for ensuring all bodies delivering public services are subject to FoI legislation, Scottish ministers are currently consulting only on including private prisons, providers of secure accommodation for children, grant-aided schools and independent special schools.

UNISON supports CFoIS in condemning the decision not to also add others, including housing associations and private contractors providing public services – extensions we have campaigned for over many years.

The Scottish consultation closes on 4 September, while the CFoIS is also encouraging people to respond to a UK consultation, closing on 15 September.

Details of both are here, along with information about the crowdfunding bid for awareness raising work and briefings to MSPs on how FoI rights must be protected and extended.

Carol Ewart, CFoIS convenor, said: “It is hugely disappointing that, after all the previous consultations, the strength of public opinion, and pressure by CFoIS, public groups and even the Scottish Information Commissioner, the Government has come forward with such feeble proposals.

“Once again, public pressure needs to be brought to bear, to demand that the Scottish Government reverses the erosion of FOI rights in Scotland.”

The UK Government has set up an ‘independent’ Commission to look at FoI, but its membership includes known opponents of increased public scrutiny. And there are proposals to charge £100 for appeals to the First-tier Tribunal against an Information Commissioner decision, with an oral hearing costing an extra £500.

Appeals are currently free. As the Campaign for Freedom of Information points out, introducing fees for Employment Tribunal appeals, for example against unfair dismissal, has led to a massive fall in the numbers of cases.

UNISON encourages members and branches to support the CFoIS campaigns and to respond to the consultations. Further information is in this Morning Star article from earlier in August.

As Carol said: “Our FoI rights, the foundation of many of our essential human rights, are under threat. We all need to add our weight to the campaign to defend them.”


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