Lawyers warn that plans to extend Freedom of Information Act may be seen as a barrier to building firms

Contractors could be put off the Scottish market because of plans to extend Freedom of Information rules to private companies, lawyers are warning.

Bruce Crawford, Scotland’s minister for parliamentary business, said on Tuesday a consultation would be launched in the spring on applying FOI legislation to companies such as building contractors working on large public projects.

New rules could mean firms involved with PFI schemes and government-funded projects would have a duty to answer questions from the public about the projects.

William Malcolm, an expert in FOI law at Pinsent Masons, said: "Private sector organisations might agree with the need to be open with how public funds are spent but might question whether extension to legislation is the best way to achieve that.

"They may have concerns about the costs of compliance and whether that will leave them at a competitive disadvantage in challenging economic times."