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Newspaper chiefs welcome axing of 60-day FoI deadline

John McLellanGovernment chiefs have axed plans to give public bodies in Scotland up to 60 days to respond to Freedom of Information requests.

Holyrood’s COVID-19 committee rejected the Scottish government’s attempts to change from the usual 20-day deadline after amendments by Scottish Greens MSP Ross Greer were agreed.

The deadline extension had initially introduced as part of the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill.

The latest move has been welcomed by the Scottish Newspaper Society.

Director John McLellan, pictured, told HTFP: “The decision to scrap the FoI deadline is welcome, but it was disappointing that it was introduced in the first place.

“Freedom of Information is a vital tool for any truly open democracy and if anything it should be opened up further at a time when democratic debate and scrutiny is being severely curtailed locally and nationally.”

Mr Greer told Glasgow-based daily The Herald: “I’m grateful that my amendments were passed unanimously, ensuring that the public, journalists and elected representatives have access to as much information as possible during this crisis.

“Confidence in government is critical right now but it depends on transparency.

“Restricting Freedom of Information was wrong and unnecessary, reflected but the fact that no other country in Europe has taken this step.”

A Scottish government spokesman said: “Our approach has been to seek consensus on the emergency coronavirus legislation and as the parliament has now decided that these measures are not required to support authorities, we will, of course, respect that.”