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Supporting Scotland's vibrant voluntary sector

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is the membership organisation for Scotland's charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Charity registered in Scotland SC003558. Registered office Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB.

Extending freedom of information - could voluntary organisations be affected?

Should voluntary organisations be designated under freedom of information (FoI) legislation if they are publicly funded and the services they deliver are of a public nature? 

That is the question put to you in a consultation by Katy Clark MSP, who proposes a bill to reform FoI legislation in Scotland, and it's one to which SCVO needs your views! 

Register for our online event on Monday, 9 January, where you can hear from Katy Clark MSP and others about proposals to extend FoI to all bodies delivering public services, including voluntary organisations. Carole Ewart of the Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland, and Daren Fitzhenry, the Scottish Information Commissioner, will join this panel discussion and Q&A.

This event is a must-attend for any voluntary organisation receiving public funding or contracts and those that might want to in the future. There will be an opportunity for attendees to speak directly with SCVO to inform our response to the consultation. Other opportunities to engage with our work will take place throughout January, but this is an important event in understanding the proposals on the table before the consultation closes on 2 February.

The background

Reform of FoI in Scotland is inevitable, but what that reform looks like is not...

While it may be the first time you've heard of it, proposals to reform FoI in Scotland have been brewing for some time. The consultation on a Member's Bill comes from the Scottish Labour Member for West of Scotland. However, there is broad support across the political parties for the reform of FoI, with the Scottish Parliament calling for coverage of FoI to extend to all bodies that deliver public services or spend public funds.

Campaigners say the Scottish Government has been too slow to act on the committee's recommendations, hence the proposal for a Member's Bill. The Scottish Government has since published its own consultation, which closes the following month on 14 March. It also seeks views on ensuring people's access to information rights keeps up with the changing landscape of public service delivery. However, as the Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland puts it, the two FoI consultations 'offer radically different solutions to acknowledged problems.' 

Both consultations show that there is consensus across the political divide that reform of FoI is needed and inevitable, including the expanding scope of what is covered by FoI. What isn't inevitable is how that reform takes shape, something that is clear from the differences between the two consultations open for views. Still, at the heart of both consultations are people's access to information rights, and voluntary organisations of all types must engage now to inform this crucial debate, to ensure that any reforms are proportionate and effective.  

Voluntary organisations need to share their views on the proposals to extend FoI coverage. You can get involved in that discussion by registering for our online event - Extending freedom of information: how will voluntary organisations be affected? - that takes place from 10 am - 11:30 am on Monday, 9 January. I look forward to seeing you there at the start of the New Year.  

SCVO will provide further background information on the proposals to reform FoI over the coming weeks to support your engagement in our work.

Contact Paul Bradley, SCVO's Policy & Public Affairs Manager, at paul.bradley@scvo.scot.

Last modified on 9 December 2022