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Scotland’s health secretary wanted to suspend freedom of information legislation in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to internal government emails obtained by the investigative website The Ferret.

Jeane Freeman made the request as the government was preparing emergency legislation to deal with the pandemic, in response to a request for ministers to suggest items they felt were “urgently required”.

In an email sent on behalf of the cabinet secretary, obtained by the Ferret, Freeman requested the “suspension of FoI legislation in order to allow staff (NHS and local government, but potential to extend more widely) to focus on essential activities”.

Emergency legislation passed at the start of lockdown significantly extended the deadlines for public bodies to respond to FoI requests from the public from 20 to 60 working days. In some circumstances the Scottish government could extend deadlines for bodies other than itself for another 40 working days. But a month later in May Holyrood scrapped the controversial proposals with the second wave of emergency legislation reverting the rule back to the original 20-day deadline after opposition MSPs joined forces.

The Ferret notes that the emails were revealed after its freedom of information request was returned more than six months late. It also points out a number of high-profile health stories that have used FoI revelations recently, including a BBC Disclosure investigation into care homes and a Sunday Post exclusive that hospitals had discharged patients to care homes despite them having tested positive for coronavirus.




Jeane Freeman.

Jeane Freeman. Photograph: Getty Images

Read the original article at The Guardian

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