SCOTLAND’S housing associations could be forced to release documents, letters, correspondence and details of management salaries, as ministers announce a huge expansion of Freedom of Information laws.

At a conference in Edinburgh today, Joe FitzPatrick the Minister for Parliamentary Business, is expected to announce radical changes to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), which will bring Registered Social Landlords (RSL) into its reach.

A majority of housing associations have fought all proposals that would force them to comply with the transparency rules, saying the cost of delivering the information would be crippling and take up huge amounts of staff time.

But now, after dogged campaigning by activists, who have long pointed out that council’s transferring housing stock to RSLs, left thousands without information rights, source’s suggest, the government looks set to change the rules.

The announcement will come almost a year to the day FitzPatrick launched a consultation on extending the act.

At the time he said: “The First Minister has committed to leading the most open and accessible government that Scotland has ever had. The ‘right to know’ provided by FOI legislation underpins this commitment to democratic engagement.”

Carole Ewart, the co-convener of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, said if the reports of the announcement were true, she would be pleasantly surprised.

But she insisted that FOISA also needed to apply to the housing association subsidiaries. Scotland’s RSLs have 148 subsidiaries, which include everything from factoring services to, in some cases, commercial organisations.

Ewart suggested housing associations might otherwise use the subsidiaries as a way of keeping parts of their organisation out of the glare of FOISA “This was something that was supposed to pretty simple,” she said. “And we know that because Jim Wallace explained it [when he was Deputy First Minister] and it’s quite amazing it’s taken 15 years to achieve what was promised in 2002.”

Housing campaigner, Sean Clerkin, has been a crusader to bring housing associations under FOISA. He said: “This is great news and means that housing associations will be open and transparent, and accountable from this point onwards, and it’ll give their tenants equality with council tenants”.

When Fitzpatrick launched his consultation last year, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations Chief Executive Mary Taylor said her members were already subject to regulation and transparency rules: “We represent a wide variety of organisations across the country – small, large, urban, rural, general and specialist – and we need to gauge how this proposal could affect our members in these different contexts.”

Earlier this year, MSPs backed a motion calling for an “independent inquiry” into how the Scottish Government deals with FoI requests and post-legislative scrutiny of FoI law.

Last month, the Scottish Information Commissioner launched an investigation into allegations the Scottish Government blocked or delayed freedom of information requests.

Daren Fitzhenry’s intervention follows a letter from 23 journalists accusing the government of frustrating freedom of information law.