Private Sector, Public Services, and the Need for Transparency

Published on 17 February 2023

Presentation to the Scottish Public Information Forum

On this page

Over the last 30 years there has been an increased trend in the privatisation and outsourcing of public services traditionally provided by the state to the private sector. In outsourcing public services to the private sector, there is a general concern that the public will be unable to examine the terms under which the delivery of these public services is to be provided.

The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 acts as a means for the public to access information on privatised or outsourced public services. However, this information may not be disclosable due to confidentiality agreements or if the private body is asked directly, because the private company is not subject to the Act – leading to the public being unable to hold the state or the private sector to account in how essential public services are delivered.

In light of the current proposal to reform the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, Dr Sean Whittaker was invited to speak at the general meeting of the Scottish Public Information Forum. Taking lessons from the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 and South Africa, Dr Whittaker highlighted the different approaches that can be taken in defining public authorities in a way that includes private bodies providing public services and the difficulties in implementing these definitions in practice.

Information about the Scottish Public Information Forum, run by the Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland, can be found on their website

Story category Conferences