Scottish Executive considers charges for FOI requests in Scotland

According to the Scotsman newspaper new charges could be introduced for all freedom of information requests in Scotland.

The Scottish Executive is currently conducting a review of the operation of the Freedom of Information Act. Scottish Ministers are looking into the possibility of aggregating costs where a number of separate FOI requests are made by one individual to a public authority. This would mean that the £600 fee limit could be reached more quickly and could be used by public authorities as a reason to refuse information under the Act.

A spokesman for Margaret Curran, minister for parliamentary business, said that the minister had not ruled out a flat rate charge for all FOI requests, but thought it was unlikely to happen since it could deter people from using the Act.

Kenny MacAskill, SNP spokesman on justice, said: "More charges would negate the whole intention of the Freedom of Information Act. If you make the cost of applications unaffordable you rule out access to information to all but the fortunate few. This is not what the parliament intended and the Executive must not go down this road."

When a flat charge of £10 was introduced in Ireland for all information requests and a £100 charge for all appeals, the number of requests for information to public authorities dropped by around one third.

The Executive is also considering whether more bodies should be covered by the Act, such as private prisons and housing associations.

Scots may face rise in cost of digging out information (The Scotsman, 4 October 2005)