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UNISON CALLS FOR FULL SCOTTISH FREEDOM OF INFORMATION

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Scotland's largest public service union, Unison, today called on the Scottish executive to strengthen its proposals...
Scotland's largest public service union, Unison, today called on the Scottish executive to strengthen its proposals on freedom of information rather than weaken them like the English legislation.
The executive's draft bill on freedom of information is expected in the new year. The union has been campaigning for the legislation to be backed up by increased resources to allow public sector bodies to be able to provide full information storage and retrieval. They are also demanding private sector bodies are treated the same as the public sector.
John Stevenson, chair of Unison Scotland's communications committee, said: 'The experience of the failure of freedom of information legislation in England, should make us very wary of what happens here. The consultation document was very positive, but unless it is strengthened and backed up by resources the difficulty will be in delivering the practice. Years of funding cuts have impacted badly on archiving, and information storage and retrieval. They tend to have been very low priority when the
money is handed out.'
Unison also wants to ensure that private firms providing public services have to disclose the same information. Currently much information is not available and firms quote 'commercial confidentiality' when questioned on this.
'This leads to the absurd situation of the public not being told how many staff are employed by Kilmarnock Prison, for example.' Chris Bartter, Unison Scotland's communications officer, said: 'Private firms providing public services must be subject to the same legal constraints as their public sector counterparts.'
Unison represents thousands of public service workers who will be directly affected by the provisions of freedom of information laws.
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