This week I spoke in the Scottish Parliament on the Freedom of Information Requests debate.
There have been many concerns raised surrounding the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and the performance of the SNP Government in responding to requests under the act. It has been repeatedly said that the application of the act by ministers and officials is questionable at best and, at worst, implies a culture and practice of secrecy and cover-up, including through routinely avoiding sharing information, often by not recording or taking minutes of meetings that are attended by ministers or senior civil servants.
I am glad that the Government have noted that they have performed poorly in this area, however, they must do more than simply recognise that more work has to be done. This is not enough. In order to make a real difference they need to change the way they are operating, by shifting the culture of secrecy and become much more open and transparent.
How can it be that Government ministers meet with quango chiefs, business chiefs and lobbyists to discuss issues that have major implications for the people of Scotland, yet no record is kept of those meetings? That is not right, and this Parliament must make it clear that we expect this kind of practice to change.
By committing to an independent inquiry, the Government will show that it is committed to reviewing some of the damage it has done to the open and transparent image it says it is committed to.
Most importantly, there now needs to be a change in the culture of how FOI requests are dealt with. The Government and this Parliament can show that we want openness and transparency in all that we do.