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  • Writer's pictureAnnaig Nicol

Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020: Update

Scotland only country so far to use COVID-19 as justification to water down Freedom of Information laws setting concerning precedent.

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill (as passed last week) contains far-reaching amendments to the operation of vital Freedom of Information (FOI) laws in Scotland on a temporary basis during the ongoing crisis. In particular, as regards the timescales that will apply to public bodies in responding to FOI requests.

In this legal update briefing, we provide a summary of the legal changes - which have been highly contentious and entered into force with limited opportunity for debate and scrutiny from civil society. We also share some early insights into their practical application and the latest guidelines from the Scottish Information Commissioner.

Given the emergency posed by COVID-19, the bill (now Act) was passed in a single day using the emergency procedure in Parliament. But it remains questionable whether these far-reaching changes were "necessary" to the exigencies of the current crisis - going well beyond application to front-line workers - and represent a fundamental democratic shift with such limited opportunity for scrutiny to protect transparency rights.

You can read the full briefing here

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