SNP ministers have been accused of a “shameless” addiction to secrecy after refusing to overhaul Scotland’s 20-year-old freedom of information regime.

The Scottish Government said the existing system, based on a Holyrood Act passed in 2002, was already rigorous enough and could be enhanced with guidance if necessary.

It also refused to change the law to cover confidentiality clauses in public contracts.

Opposition parties said it was kicking reform down the road, beyond the current parliament.

The Government has effectively been in special measures for six years because of its poor FoI response handling after Scotland’s FoI Commission launched an “intervention” in 2017.

The outgoing Commissioner, Daren Fitzhenry, last month said it was “disappointing” that it was still ongoing, and that problems had deteriorated in 2022 and 2023.

The latest row followed a consultation on people’s rights to access information held by public bodies which ran from late last year until March.

It asked 31 questions about the agility of the current regime, developments in technology such as WhatsApp messages, and ensuring FoI law remained fit for purposes.

Campaigners had called for FoI law to be extended to a range of new bodies paid to provide public services, including private and third sector care services.

Publishing the Government’s response to the exercise, parliamentary business minister George Adam said there were no plans for new primary legislation to widen the scope of FoI.

However he said he was “open” to changes at some unspecified point in future.

He said: “Scotland already has rigorous FoI legislation to ensure accountability around decision making processes. It provides robust rights for requesters to be provided with information held by public authorities, balanced against the need for proportionality and the protection of sensitive information.

“Areas for improvement were highlighted in the consultation responses and we will consider how existing provisions can be used to ensure FoI rules are up-to-date and working effectively. That will include looking at how FoI applies to services delivered in partnership with third sector and private sector providers.”

The minister said extending current rules to include the sector would be “consistent” with the new National Care Service Bill which is currently making its way through Holyrood.

“However, we recognise the acute pressures in parts of the sector, which is why we will fully consult all partners after the bill has been passed before any changes are made,” he added.

Scottish Labour MSP Katy Clark, who wants FoI to cover all bodies providing public services, accused the Government of trying to “kick the can down the road yet again”.

She said: “There’s no commitment to private or third sector designation, just a vague commitment to a consultation on the care sector and only after the passage of a National Care Service that has itself been delayed.

“This is weak, timid and far from what the public are calling for. It’s utterly undemocratic that so many publicly-funded organisations evade scrutiny because of their ownership.”

She said her member’s bill on the issue would “close these loopholes, introduce a statutory duty for bodies to proactively publish information, and make FoI fit for the modern day”.

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur added: “This SNP Government is wedded to secrecy. Meaningful reform is being stopped dead in its tracks because ministers don’t want to close the loopholes they have been using to dodge scrutiny.

“Nobody will be fooled by the promise of further reviews and consultations designed to kick transparency into the long grass. Freedom of information legislation was ground-breaking when Scottish Liberal Democrats first introduced it 20 years ago. What was supposed to be the beginning has been steadily unpicked by a shameless SNP Government.”