That ends our coverage of the Scottish Parliament for Tuesday 13 June 2017.
We'll be back tomorrow.
Have a good night.
That ends our coverage of the Scottish Parliament for Tuesday 13 June 2017.
We'll be back tomorrow.
Have a good night.
Tory MSP Edward Mountain raises a point of order saying yet again no answers have been given to the questions asksed and that is why there are so many FOI requests.
The deputy presiding officer says that is not a point of order.
Mr Fitzpatrick says he notes the concern of the journalists and that all information requests are dealt with within the guidelines in the public domain.
The parliamentary business minister says there is a clear appeals process.
He says he does not want to be here having to defend the government on this issue.
Mr Fitzpatrick says the government fully complies with all record keeping processes.
He says yesterday he signed the first commencement of the Lobbying Scotland Act which will increase transparency.
"Given we have a parliament of minorities" increasing transparency is important, he says.
Mr Fitzpatrick says a request can be refused only if it requires 40 hours work.
The minister again says the Scottish government again compares favourably to the UK government in this area.
Mr Fitzpatrick says the FOI statistics for the UK show it responds to only 63% of requests compared to 55% here in Scotland.
Mr Fitzpatrick says performance is better but he recognises that it is not good enough.
Labour MSP Neil Findlay asks if the minister does not understand that FOI requests will go down if parliamentary questions are answered properly as opposed to with "dross".
Mr Fitzpatrick says "thank you" and that he is short of time.
He refers to Westminster's record on FOI.
Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott intervenes to ask the minister to address the letter rather than talk about Westminster.
The parliamentary business minister says he will address the letter.
Parliamentary Business Minister Joe Fitzpatrick says he recognises the performance in responding to FOI requests on time is not good enough.
Labour MSP Neil Findlay says the commissioner's report says she received showed 10 FOI requests not answered but ministers said there were none.
Mr Fitzpatrick says he would have to look into those figures.
He says he hopes members will acknowledge his admission the government is not where it wants to be.
The minister says by April this year there were more FOI request in 2017 than there were in the whole of 2016.
Parliamentary Business Minister Joe Fitzpatrick says he wants to highlight the government's efforts in being open and transparent.
Mr Fitzpatrick says nothing has been taken off the website in terms of information and that as a country "Scotland can be proud of its record in FOI."
Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott intervenes to ask why the previous Information Commissioner described the government ministers as "rude".
Mr Fitzpatrick says that will be covered later.
Labour MSP Richard Leonard says the very virtues of openness in the Freedom of Information Act 2002 have been changed in practice for vices of secrecy.
Mr Leonard says there has been total silence tonight from SNP MSPs.
The Labour MSP says the government's first instinct is to tell members of this parliament as little as possible and it this first instinct journalists object to.
He says agendas and minutes of meetings should be published by the government as a matter of course.
The Labour MSP says the SNP are on one side and the sovereign parliament, the press and the people are on the other.
Tory MSP Edward Mountain says that it is disappointing that journalists have concerns over how the legislation is being interpreted.
Mr Mountain says he has "huge sympathy" with the journalists and that they, and members of this parliament, are being treated differently and that it is unnacceptable.
He questions whether the government has a transparency problem or a culture of secrecy.
The Tory MSP says when he asks questions they are normally met with a smokescreen.
Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott says the government should do "no less" than a full scale inquiry into the FOI system.
Mr Scott says a journalist pointed out that this begs the question whether or not the government are now not recording routine information that they previously recorded.
The Lib Dem MSP says "the government's behaviour has become institutional."
He says the culture needs to change and it is time it changed.
Green MSP Andy Wightman says the letter from the journalists comes on the back of criticism from the previous information commissioner Rosemary Agnew.
Mr Wightman says the failure to respond to requests on time could be addressed by tightening the law.
He says there should be a log of FOI requests and responses from public authorities.
The Green MSP says the FOI regime needs serious scrutiny.
The journalist's letter concludes: "We believe that review should also look closely at the question of whether the legislation should include a duty to record on government officials, advisers and ministers, particularly when meeting with outside bodies, individuals or lobbyists to discuss government policy."
The previous information commissioner, Rosemary Agnew, stood down in April after being appointed as the country's Public Services Ombudsman.
A panel of five MSPs, including presiding officer Ken MacIntosh, will interview candidates to succeed Ms Agnew - who had been highly critical of the handling of FoI by some public bodies - next week.
The acting commissioner, Margaret Keyse, welcomed the journalists' letter.
She said: "The journalists' experience points to potentially serious breaches of a statutory duty. The commissioner can investigate these breaches, but only if they are appealed to us."
A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said its records were kept in accordance with all relevant legislation and practice.
Labour MSP Monica Lennon says journalists have used FOI to great affect and sometimes with consequences for governments and individual politicians.
Ms Lennon says the government is "under attack" with this motion and therefore it is no surprise that no SNP member signed it but that it is an issue that should be taken seriously.
The Labour MSP says the evidence on FOI is in stark contract to the government's claim that it is open and transparent.
She says she asked the government for information on any meetings held by government on sanitary products and she is still waiting for that information.
Conservative MSP Graham Simpson says serious issues have been raised by the journalists and he says it is essential that the democracy is open and transparent.
Mr Simpson says he thinks the government has been trying to get around the law.
He says he has heard Parliamentary Business Minister Joe Fitzpatrick's vague and meandering response to this and he hopes for a better answer today.
He says FOI is not there to be got around.
Mr Findlay says he made a great number of FOI requests on transvaginal mesh and that the replies he has received are farcical.
The Labour MSP says these matters must be treated seriously and says that the Standards and Procedures Committee must look into this.
"We cannot allow the current practice to continue," he says.
Mr Findlay says his office uses FOIs regularly but time and time again the government blocks or redacts part of its response.
The Labour MSP gives examples of a series of meetings with no agenda and no minutes, for example between John Swinney and Angus Tulloch and a meeting between Nicola Sturgeon and the editor of the Sun.
For each meeting he cites he says: "No agenda, no minutes."
He says are we meant to believe that no substantive government business was discussed at these meetings.
The Labour MSP says the government thinks " we zip up the back".
Taken from the Scottish Information Commissioner website:
"The Scottish Information Commissioner's office promotes and enforces both the public's right to ask for the information held by Scottish public authorities, and good practice by authorities. Through her work, the Commissioner supports the openness, transparency and accountability of public bodies."
Labour MSP Neil Findlay says journalists have highlighted requests not being answered within the required time or being ignored.
Mr Findlay says requests have been refused or blocked for tenuous reasons.
The Labour MSP says the complaints have been made by a diverse list of prominent and well-respected journalists.
He likens the tactics used by the Scottish government to that of dictators.
Journalists from across Scotland's media have signed an open letter raising concerns about the way the Scottish government handles freedom of information (FoI) requests.
It accuses the government of failing to keep records of information that should be available.
And it claims that FoI requests are often screened by special advisers for any potential political damage.
The government said Scotland has the most open FoI laws in the UK.
But it said the "increasing volume and complexity" of some requests can prove time consuming, and has the potential to "seriously impact on the work of government".
Labour MSP Neil Findlay says sadly no member of the SNP managed to sign his motion.
He says the 94% of the public agreed it is important government information can be accessed.
The Labour MSP says the quality of replies to parliamentary questions is "dross" and it "demeans us".
He says FOI requests illicit very little information.
The Labour MSP says 23 prominent journalists raised very serious concerns about government mishandling of FOI request, deliberately in Mr Findlay's view.
Mr Findlay says that the journalists’ criticism of FOISA shows that it is time to have a review of whether the legislation remains robust or has been diminished.
The Labour MSP questions whether it should be extended and strengthened.
He also questions whether elements of it are still appropriate, such as the level set for the cost exemption, whereby the Scottish government may refuse to provide information if the cost of doing so exceeds £600, a figure that hasn't been updated since FOISA came into force.
Mr Findlay says that a review would ensure that people in Lothian and across the country who use their FOI rights could be confident that FOISA would be improved and applied in a way that was consistent with the spirit intended when the law was established.
Mr Findlay says this flies in the face of the Scottish government’s much-vaunted assessment of itself as open and transparent including through:
The Labour MSP says that the Scottish Government introduced its Record Management Plan to comply with the 2011 Act.
Labour MSP Neil Findlay uses his motion to raise his "great concern" over the letter from 23 prominent Scottish journalists to the selection panel for the appointment of the Scottish Information Commissioner.
Mr Findlay says the letter was published on 1 June 2017 by The Ferret and Common Space and details what they argue are the failures of the Scottish Government and its agencies in relation to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA).
The Labour MSP says that it suggests that the application of FOISA by ministers and officials is questionable at best and, at worst, implies a culture and practice of secrecy and cover up including:
Labour MSP Neil Findlay will now lead a debate entitled 'Leading Journalists Criticise the Scottish Government over FOISA'.
Here is Mr Findlay's motion.
The government motion as amended is agreed to unanimously.
The Labour amendment is agreed to unanimously.
We now move to decision time.
Mr Matheson says it is important that landlords consider who they are letting the properties to.
The justice secretary says the government is taking forward measures that recognises the cross-border nature of human trafficking.
Mr Matheson says it is important the UK remains in Europol and highlights the benefits from the European Arrest Warrant.
He concludes saying the government wants to make Scotland a hostile place for human trafficking.
Mr Matheson says the data highlights that Vietnamese have been the biggest group supported following human trafficking.
The justice secretary says there might be more work to do "further up stream" in the countries where victims originate.
He says there is a very public nature about where some huma trafficking takes place for example in nail bars, agriculture and the fishing industry.
"This could be happening under your nose," he says.
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson says there is a recognition across the chamber of the complexity in tackling exploitation and trafficking.
Mr Matheson praises the efforts of Jenny Marra and Christina McKelvie in raising awareness around the issue and he says he will accept the Labour amendment.
He says very often people have a perception that human trafficking does not take here in Scotland.
Mr Matheson says the number of referrals has increased by 3.4% between 2015 and 2016.
Tory MSP Annie Wells says the 2015 Act requires a review of the strategy within three years which means that the parliament will have the opportunity to review its effectiveness.
Ms Wells says there is a need for cooperation across borders and that cooperation of agencies following Brexit is essential.
The Tory MSP says the Scottish government strategy is welcome an that her party will support the government motion and the Labour amendment.
Conservative MSP Annie Wells says the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act and the publication of the strategy are welcome but she says the BBC Scotland documentary highlighted the challenges still remaining.
Ms Wells says she supports the actions in the strategy to identify perpetrators.
She praises the work of Victim Support Scotland.
The Tory MSP also supports the strategy's approach to tackling violence against women and girls.
Labour MSP Claire Baker says we need to be aware that boys and girls, like men and women, experience trafficking in different ways and that the support required will be different.
Ms Baker says that there are effective ways to communicate with people on this issue to raise awareness and that may be via dramas and television programmes.
The Labour MSP says there are many victims in forced labour working in services that we use everyday.
She says this is a global issue and that some of the people affected may have low literacy and language skills.
Labour MSP Claire Baker says human trafficking is abhorrent and has no place in Scotland.
The Labour MSP says the government's strategy is a living document and all views must be held.
She welcomes the justice secretary's announcement of a doubling of the support for victims to 90 days.
The Labour MSP says the networks that have been built up across Europe must be maintained.
Tory MSP Jamie Greene says the image of what we think a human slave might look like doesn't always match the stereotype.
Mr Greene refers to a 6ft "burly" Polish man who was brought to the UK and forced to work in agriculture before being beat up by gang masters.
The Tory MSP says fear is a way of controlling people and this can make it difficult for victims to come forward.
He says the focus on victims is important and that measurement and monitoring is the key to success.
Mr Greene says the message to traffickers should be "you are not welcome here."
SNP MSP Sandra White pays tribute to the BBC's investigative reporter Sam Polling for her work in highlighting human trafficking.
Ms White also mentions a recent human trafficking story line on BBC Scotland drama River City which helps to raise awareness.
The SNP MSP says many people are trafficked for work in the catering industry and find they are sharing a room with 10 other people and paid about £1 per day.
"We must have cross border working throughout Europe," she says.