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BBC Scotland's David Nisbet
"What will be made available is the main question"
 real 28k

Jim Wallace
"A very effective freedom of information bill will be revealed"
 real 28k

Sunday, 21 November, 1999, 16:57 GMT
'An information bill with teeth'
Jim Wallace is quizzed about the freedom of information bill

Scots can expect to have more rights then their English and Welsh neighbours when it comes to being able to inspect government documents.

The Scottish Freedom of Information Bill - one of the most important pieces of legislation since devolution - will be outlined to MSPs next week.

Murray Tosh: "Need for consistency"
But the country's Justice Minister Jim Wallace has revealed that the new law will not make public Westminster matters which the UK Government wish to remain secret.

The Scottish bill will cover the full range of bodies for which the Scottish Parliament is responsible but it will not have jurisdiction over purely Whitehall-generated material.

The UK's Labour Government is making a separate move to introduce a freedom of information law - which it is understood will be a watered down version of the Scottish plan.

Some see problems in two freedom of information laws.




There needs to be some basic consistency. Otherwise do we not run the risk of having some prosecutions taking place in Scotland and not England, or vice versa? Where does this leave the law of both countries and where does it leave public confidence?
Murray Tosh
Murray Tosh, Conservative MSP, believes there will be there will be serious procedural implications which should be reconciled.

He said: "There needs to be some basic consistency. Otherwise do we not run the risk of having some prosecutions taking place in Scotland and not England, or vice versa, Where does this leave the law of both countries and where does it leave public confidence."

Mr Wallace denied that problems between Holyrood and Westminster would surface.

The Liberal Democrat told BBC Scotland's Holyrood programme on Sunday: "Details must remain secret until Thursday, but a very effective bill will be revealed.

"We are going to have our own regime in Scotland and I am trying to get a Scottish bill for Scottish circumstances. This is not a case of putting one over Labour at Westminster.

"I don't accept the concerns that there will be problems with a separate Westminster bill.

Rule making

"This is part of the devolution statement."

But he added: "It is clear that information which is given to Holyrood from Westminster will remain the property of Westminster.

"The whole point of the Scottish Parliament is that we should be devising our own rules and that is what we are going to do."

Mr Wallace, who is a Westminster MP as well as an MSP, said he would not oppose the UK-wide bill when it goes to a second reading in the House of Commons.

However, he said he and his Liberal Democrat colleagues would be lobbying for amendments.

'Devolution at work'

Mr Wallace believes the Scottish Parliament has already made headway with introducing its own legislative changes.


The whole point of the Scottish Parliament is that we should be devising our own rules and that is what we are going to do
Jim Wallace
He pointed to the Ruddle affair - in which a murderer detained in a the country's state mental hospital won his freedom on a technicality - as case dealt with swiftly.

Mr Wallace said: "The Ruddle case was a very good example of devolution at work.

"When the legal loophole was exposed by the sheriff's ruling in a very short period of time the Scottish Parliament sort to address that.

"I don't think Westminster was going to come back from a summer recess and address the mental health legislation in Scotland.

"It was hard work, but we said what we wanted and we achieved that.

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See also:
19 Nov 99 |  Scotland
Demands for far-reaching information bill
23 Jun 99 |  UK Politics
Freedom of Information plans unveiled
22 Jun 99 |  UK Politics
Straw defends information bill

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