The Freedom of Information Act (FOI) gives members of the public a right to request information from a public authority, such as a local council, the NHS, police, schools or a government department. I believe strong freedom of information laws are vital for holding public bodies to account, promoting a culture of openness and accountability.
The UK Government recently had a consultation about proposed changes to FOI rules including the implementation of fees to request an FOI. The consultation has now closed; the last of the oral evidence was heard on 25 January by the Independent Commission on Freedom of Information, they aim to have a report 'as soon as possible' - read more here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/independent-commission-on-freedom-of-information-call-for-evidence#history
FOI legislation is partly devolved to Scotland, in areas where Scottish Ministers have jurisdiction, under the FOI (Scotland) Act 2002. UK Government organisations operating in Scotland would be affected by the proposed changes to the UK FOI law. The UK Government's introduction of fees for appeals in employment tribunals has resulted in a massive decrease of their use and I fear that the same would happen to FOI if they were to go ahead with these proposals – I will be following developments closely.
In contrast to Westminster, instead of weakening existing FOI laws the Scottish Government is planning to extend the remit of them in Scotland to include: contractors who run privately managed prisons, providers of secure accommodation for children, grant aided schools and independent special schools. Subject to Parliamentary process this will come into effect on 1 September 2016 – read more here: http://www.gov.scot/About/Information/FOI/Coverage
I believe that a strong government needs strong FOI laws to ensure transparency, accountability and to maintain the trust of the people and my SNP colleagues and I will resist any changes to weaken them.