SCOTTISH ministers have come under attack for dropping plans to extend freedom of information legislation to cover more public bodies.

The Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland (CFoIS) has accused the Scottish Government of failing to deliver long-promised legal reforms aimed at strengthening the public's right to know.

"It is very disappointing," said the campaign's co-convenor, Carole Ewart."Given Government principles supporting freedom of information and the level of public support for extending coverage to all public-service providers, the failure to take such an obvious opportunity to extend that coverage is very damaging to our rights."

The Scottish Parliament's Finance Committee has invited evidence on the Scottish Government's proposed Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill before August 8. CFoIS is launching a campaign to persuade others to back its demands for changes.

In a submission seen by the Sunday Herald, CFoIS is calling for freedom of information law to cover many more public agencies.

These include housing associations, organisations set up by local authorities, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates and other private and voluntary sector bodies that provide public services.

The UK Government had taken a "more progressive" approach, said CFoIS, by extending FoI legislation to the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) and the Financial Ombudsman Service.

UK ministers were also consulting on extending it to the Law Society, housing associations, the Advertising Standards Authority and the Local Government Association.

According to CFoIS, the only UK reform "cherry-picked" by Scottish ministers is the "regressive" move for a new exemption to freedom of information laws for the Queen and the next two in line to the throne.

This is said to be a "step backwards" which creates "inconsistencies in the public's right to know in Scotland".

Maurice Frankel, director of the UK Campaign for Freedom of Information, said: "It's a worrying development that in Scotland, where information rights have historically been more robust than in the UK, the new Bill adopts the UK's restrictive approach of removing information about the monarchy from access, but ignores the small but significant progress being made to extend the scope of the UK Act."

Campaigners were backed by the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), which argued pressures on public services made people more anxious for information. It was "unacceptable" that organisations that spend billions of public money were not subject to scrutiny, said STUC deputy general secretary, Dave Moxham.

"Far from being an open, transparent government, the SNP are increasingly showing disdain for freedom of information," said Willie Rennie MSP, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

"The Bill is far too limited and should be extended to cover a wider range of government bodies currently not covered," he added.

Green MSP Alison Johnstone alleged the Scottish Government was "too close to big business". She was hopeful the Finance Committee would extend FoI law to other bodies, including the private contractors taking over the management of nuclear weapons on the Clyde.

According to the Scottish Government, extending freedom of information was still under consideration: "It would be premature to extend coverage before the weaknesses in the Act can be put right, and the opportunity is taken to update current legislation," said a Government spokeswoman.