Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland offers to assist RSLs prepare for FoI coverage

Freedom of InformationThe Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland (CFoIS) is to re-establish the Scottish Public Information Forum so it can work with stakeholders on access to information rights.

Welcoming the publication of responses to Scottish Government proposals to extend Freedom of Information (FoI) law to cover Scottish housing associations, CFoIS is also offering to assist housing associations prepare for coverage.

Analysing the 73 published responses to the consultation, CFoIS said that housing associations or their representative bodies make up “the large majority” of the 26% who oppose extension.

The 70% supporting extension, it added, are more widely spread, comprising councils (already covered by FoI), campaign groups, trade unions and most noticeably, tenants’ groups.

Carole Ewart, convener of CFoIS, said: “It is good that a cross-section of Scottish society agrees that the public functions of housing associations should be open to legally enforceable requests for information from the public. The human right of tenants and the Scottish public to receive and share information so they can form an opinion, have been eroded for too long.”

CFoIS said that it hopes an announcement from the Scottish Government will confirm the suggested implementation date of April 2018 across RSLs and their 148 subsidiaries, a date that was also supported in the consultation.

It added: “Housing associations must already have information management systems in place to fulfil their legal duty to answer requests for information under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations. The same team and systems should be deployed to deliver this additional right which will further build the reputation of the housing association movement by ensuring greater transparency, accountability and therefore public trust.”

On the offer to help housing associations, Ms Ewart said: “In Scotland we have traditionally discussed FoI issues with both authorities and requesters. Indeed on May 12 we are resurrecting the Scottish Public Information Forum that fell into disuse in 2010, as we are keen to foster and maintain good working relationships on access to information rights with stakeholders who are requesters as well as providers of information. We encourage both housing associations and tenants groups to attend.”

Registration for the Scottish Public Information Forum meeting on May 12 is free, via Eventbrite.