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Letter-SP-PAPLSC-FindlayMSP

From Open Government Pioneer Project

Introduction 

What?

A joint letter from as many of the original signatories to the PAPLS letter from July (and new signatories if interested) reiterating our belief that the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 should be reviewed by the Public Audit and Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee, and should not be left to the Information Commissioner, which other committees have suggested.

The letter would be sent to Neil Findlay Labour MSP who led the debate in the Scottish Parliament that led to the motion in the Scottish Parliament.

Why Neil Findlay?

It may seem a bit peculiar to write to Neil Findlay MSP to forward to Jackie Baillie MSP and Joe Fitzpatrick MSP, but his role in this is a very important one.

We already know Public Audit and Parliamentary Legislative Scrutiny Committee are taking their lead from Public Appointments Committee ( see Ruchir's email 3 October "PAPLS: Post-legislative scrutiny - response from Scot Parl" ) who are taking the lead from Joe Fitzpatrick ( http://www.parliament.scot/S5_Standards/General%20Documents/20170911SPPAConvener_to_MinPB.pdf) who committed to post-legislative scrutiny off the back of the motion and debate in Holyrood began by Neil Findlay ( http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/28877.aspx?SearchType=Advance&ReferenceNumbers=S5M-05946 ), which resulted in the motion for post-legislative scrutiny. So his support for the direction the scrutiny should take is decisive from a moral standpoint.

Neil Findlay has confirmed he would support the letter and forward it on to the relevant parties.

Why now?

The Public Appointments Committee hoped to have a decision after the October recess. They may have received a response from Joe Fitzpatrick already but it is important we make our voices heard about the proposed direction this review should take.

Will this be press released?

No plans at the moment. It is more important this letter is taken up by Neil Findlay and await the outcome of the decision.

Letter (draft)

Mr. Neil Findlay, 

We are writing to you as a group of citizens and organisations that share your concerns about the Scottish Government’s record on freedom of information. In July, we were part of a group who wrote to the Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee to suggest scrutinising the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.  

https://opengovpioneers.miraheze.org/wiki/Letter-SP-PAPLSC  

The Committee has shortlisted the Act for consideration pending the outcome of a decision about who best to scrutinise the [null Act] .

Following the debate in Parliament on 19 June 2017 about freedom of information, you will remember that the Minister Joe Fitzpatrick MSP committed the Scottish Government to post-legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. It has come to our attention that the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee has since written to Joe Fitzpatrick to suggest the Scottish Information Commissioner as an appropriate body to undertake this review.

http://www.parliament.scot/S5_Standards/General%20Documents/20170911SPPAConvener_to_MinPB.pdf

We do not consider that the Scottish Information Commissioner is the appropriate body to scrutinise the Act. The public body responsible for implementing the legislation is not suitably independent enough to provide the level of scrutiny required. We consider that a committee of MSPs would be a more credible body to undertake this important task. Perhaps it would make sense for PAPLS to undertake the review as part of or alongside its post-legislative scrutiny of the Freedom Of Information (Scotland) Act. 

To ensure the credibility of the motion that you had worked so hard to pass we think it is vital that we address this issue before it takes hold. We hope that you would be able to raise this with Jackie Baillie, acting convener of the Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee, and Joe Fitzpatrick MSP, Minister for Parliamentary Business, supporting the PAPLS as the relevant body in which such a review should rest. 

We hope you share our concerns and look forward to hearing from you.  

Sincerely, 

Name Organisation
Matthew Rice Open Rights Group
Ruchir Shah Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations
Lisa Mackenzie As individual
Tim Hughes Involve
Robin McAlpine Common Weal
Alex Stobart As individual
Any Dalrymple and Richard Kerley Co-chairs, Centre for Scottish Public Policy
Ewan Klein Open Knowledge Ambassador for Scotland
Pol Clementsmith Former Scotland Director at Open Rights Group

 

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