Scottish Government ministers have been urged to drop proposals to automatically exempt the most senior members of the Royal Family from freedom of information law.
Members of Holyrood's Finance Committee made the call after scrutinising Scottish Government plans to amend the legislation. The SNP administration is proposing to make communications with the Queen, her immediate heir to the throne and the second in line to the throne automatically exempt from freedom of information requests.
But both the Scottish Information Commissioner, Rosemary Agnew, and the Unison trade union raised concerns about the absolute exemption. Ms Agnew warned the committee that "making an exemption absolute further undermines and erodes rights to information" and would be a "retrograde step".
The Scottish Government argues that the change, included in the Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, is needed to bring Scotland in line with the situation in the rest of the UK.
In a report on the Bill, MSPs said they are "unconvinced of the need for this provision" and urged ministers to remove it from the legislation. All members of the committee agreed, apart from Tory Gavin Brown.
Committee convener Kenneth Gibson said: "While the Finance Committee recognises the broad overall support for the Bill and its intentions, we have listened to the evidence and invite the Scottish Government to remove at Stage 2 the provision relating to a royal exemption."
The Bill is said to be aimed at helping ensure that more information is made public earlier. It is already Scottish Government policy to open most closed files with historical records after 15 years, rather than the traditional 30 years, and the legislation would allow the ministers to bring all public authorities in line with this.
But the proposed legislation does not include provisions to extend it to arm's length organisations, the bodies set up by some councils to run some services such as sport and leisure. The Scottish Government intends to defer consideration of this until the Bill has been considered by Parliament.
In their report, the MSPs called on Infrastructure, Investment and Cities Secretary Nicola Sturgeon to set out "details and timings of how the Scottish Government intends to take forward this work". Mr Gibson said: "Regarding the extension of FoI (freedom of information) coverage, we are asking the Cabinet Secretary to detail how and when the Scottish Government will take forward its consideration of the extension of coverage. In light of the response, the committee will reconsider its position at Stage 2."
Despite these points, the committee said there is "overall support" for the Bill and backed its general principles. A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "We thank the committee for its work and we will now study the report and its recommendations."