THE Scottish information commissioner has criticised the Scottish Government for failing to include housing associations in plans to extend the organisations who must respond to freedom of information requests.

Campaigners have long argued that tenants lose their FOI rights when council houses move into housing associations.

Those campaigners received a boost at the start of the year when Rosemary Agnew, the Scottish information commissioner, warned that not covering housing associations, risked “our right to information... being slowly eroded”.

In a special report prepared for the Scottish Government, the commissioner said in the ten years since the Freedom of Information Scotland Act was brought in, more than 15,000 Scottish households have lost FOI rights as their local authority housing stock was transferred to housing associations.

At the time the report was published, campaigners believed Scottish Government ministers were sympathetic to their call.

To mark the tenth anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act in Scotland, the government launched a consultation on widening who the act covers, but the consultation document explicitly states that the government has not been “persuaded” of the arguments to include housing associations or registered social landlords.

A spokesperson for Agnew said: “The commissioner is considering the government’s proposals for the extension of FOISA. She notes that although comments about making Registered Social Landlords subject to FOI are invited in the consultation, the government has not formally proposed them, which is disappointing.”

Campaigner Sean Clerkin said: “Right to information is a fundamental human right and this cannot be denied by the Scottish Government.”

Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations director David Bookbinder welcomed the move: “This is a common sense approach from the Scottish Government. Our member associations are absolutely committed to being as open and transparent as possible with all their tenants and others who use their services. The first round of charter results last year showed that associations generally score more highly than their local authority counterparts when it comes to tenants’ views on how open their landlord is.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government defended the situation: “Scotland already has the most robust Freedom of Information regime in the UK and it is our aim to ensure that this continues, and that our principles of openness, transparency and accountability set an example for other nations to aspire to.

“The current consultation on extending the coverage of FOI legislation specifically focuses on providers of security, care and education services. While we are not ruling out bringing Registered Social Landlords within the scope of FOI legislation in future, we don’t consider this to be the appropriate time. It is important to assess fully the impact of the Scottish Social Housing Charter on promoting openness and transparency among RSLs, and initial reporting shows a high level of tenant satisfaction.”

The consultation closes on September 4.