Chief Exec of Scottish Enterprise wants to restrict FOI laws in Scotland

The chief executive of Scottish Enterprise, Jack Perry, is demanding reform of Scotland's freedom of information (FOI) laws.

The Sunday herald reports that Mr Perry, who has recently been criticised for Scottish Enterprise's inability to balance its books, wants a crackdown on politicians and journalists who table FOI questions. He says the “irresponsible use” of the legislation is disruptive and backs proposals to narrow the scope of requests.

Scottish Enterprise responded to the Scottish Executive's consultation into the implementation of the FOI Act in Scotland, stating that FOI has led to “significant disruption” within the agency. Mr Perry's covering letter states: “In recent months … we have become concerned with the irresponsible use of the act by a small minority of requesters, mainly journalists, politicians and political staff, who submit wide-ranging, unfocused requests for information.”

He added that the costs for responding to multiple requests for information must be “aggregated” and, more controversially, says questions from the public should be limited during every three-month period: “We recognise that some time limit is required and suggest that aggregation of the cost of requests received in a rolling three-month period might be appropriate.”

Mr Perry also believes that the costs of answering FOI questions, such as considering whether requests are covered by the FOI Act's exemptions, should be included when considering requests. Mr Perry also said that the estimated staff costs for answering questions, which are currently set at £15 per hour, should be increased.

Mr Perry’s suggestions for amendments to the FOI Act in Scotland follows revelations that Scottish Enterprise overspent its budget by £30 million in the financial year of March 2005 to March 2006. Mr Perry is said to be frustrated that the FOI legislation has been used to obtain information about his expenses and correspondence with ministers. He is also said to be angry that SNP MSP Alex Neil, who is the convener of the Scottish parliament’s enterprise committee, has targeted the agency with awkward requests.

Enterprise chief demands limits on ‘costly and disruptive’ Freedom of Information Act (Sunday Herald, 23 April 2006)