Scottish regulator backs fee for freedom of information requests

In a submission to consultation on Scottish freedom of information law, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator says a deterrent is needed to prevent vexatious requests

OSCR offices
OSCR offices

The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator has backed the introduction of a fee for requests made under freedom of information legislation.

The regulator said in a submission to a consultation run by the Scottish parliament on the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 that some people making requests under the legislation were doing so "for their own personal benefit rather than acting in the public interest" and it supported a "deterrent" such as a form of charging.

It said the OSCR received numerous requests from people, including journalists, "who use the act for articles/stories that have little to no relevance to our public duties and accountabilities", serial requestors making "frivolous and vexatious requests" and people who appeared to be seeking information to give organisations a commercial advantage.

"We would welcome the introduction of some form of deterrent; say a form of charging, preventing individuals from misusing the act or using it for their personal benefit," the regulator’s response said.

The OSCR said it would also welcome a change in legislation to allow public authorities to charge for time spent by officials reading and considering information under the act.

In a further submission to the same consultation, the OSCR cautioned against extending Scottish freedom of information laws to cover organisations that exercise "functions of a public nature" or provide services through contracts with Scottish public authorities.

It warned that, although it supported increased transparency in the public and charity sectors, it was concerned that a "significant" proportion of the charities it regulated could find themselves subject to freedom of information legislation but lack sufficient capacity to deal with any requests.

"Depending on how any future extensions to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act are defined, there is a potential to capture many charities, the impact of which could be substantial," the submission said.

"We are concerned about the potential regulatory impact of extending FOISA in a way which could capture many small and medium charities who may not have the resource required to comply with the regime," it said.

"We would welcome further discussions with ourselves and representatives in the charity sector about future extensions to FOISA."

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