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Friday, 19 November, 1999, 17:19 GMT
Demands for far-reaching information bill
The Scottish Parliament has part responsibility for legislation

Campaigners are demanding that the Scottish freedom of information bill must be less secretive than its Westminster equivalent.

New proposals have been put forward for England and Wales, but civil liberties campaigners are urging the Scottish Justice Minister, Jim Wallace, to go much further.

Plans for a Scottish freedom of information act formed a key part of the coalition deal between Labour and the Liberal Democrats in Scotland.

Dual Scottish system

Although it remains part of Westminster's remit, there is an exception for information held by the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Administration and any Scottish public authority with mixed functions or no reserved functions.

Two systems will therefore operate in Scotland but all public bodies will be governed by a single regime.

Maurice Frankel: "Hoping for improvement"
Campaigners for legislation gathered at a conference entitled Delivering Freedom of Information in Scotland at the University of Glasgow.

Among them were the Information Commissioner for the Republic of Ireland, Kevin Murphy, and representatives from the STUC and Friends of the Earth.

They were critical of Jack Straw's UK bill, which many believe falls some way short of Labour's 1997 white paper commitment.

Maurice Frankel, of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, said: "We hoped for a better bill, and not one which gives ministers so much power to withhold information without being properly challenged.

"We hope Jim Wallace's bill will be an improvement on this, and I think that would be good news for the people of Scotland but it would also help add pressure to improve the Westminster bill and that's also important."

The firmest indication so far as to whether campaigners will get their wish will come on Thursday when Jim Wallace outlines his plans to the Scottish Parliament.

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See also:
23 Jun 99 |  UK Politics
Freedom of Information plans unveiled
22 Jun 99 |  UK Politics
Straw defends information bill

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