The implications of FOI for the Scottish business community

Businesses in Scotland need to wake up to the implications of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act. Kevin Dunion, Scottish Information Commissioner, announced that he is surprised at the indifference of Scottish companies towards the new legislation and the consequences it could have for business. The amount of information now being released into the public domain from over 10,000 public bodies could have a direct effect on many businesses involved in contracts with the public sector.

The Commissioner stated "It is the one area in Scotland that has surprised me: how little interest the business community has shown. The Act is used abroad extensively by businesses, but it does not appear to have been properly considered by businesses here. I think they feel reassured that because the Act does not apply to them directly, somehow it is of limited impact. They do not seem to have considered the scale of public procurement, and particularly things like PFI and PPP mean that a lot of information about companies will become available."

He added that businesses also need to be aware of the scope of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations, which came into force at the same time as the Scottish Freedom of Information Act: "Environmental information that becomes available will apply to companies directly. I think they should wake up to this quite quickly. It’s going to come as a surprise to many of them."

Wake-up call for companies over new freedom of information law (Scotland on Sunday, 17 April 2005)