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Annual_Report_201718_CoverScottish Information Commissioner encourages people to use their freedom of information rights

28 September 2018

This International Right to Know Day, the Scottish Information Commissioner, Daren Fitzhenry, is encouraging people to use their freedom of information (FOI) rights. Reflecting on his first Annual Report since coming into office, Mr Fitzhenry said

"Whoever seeks information, on whatever subject, and for whatever reason, the FOI Act says they are entitled to receive it. FOI opens the door to meaningful participation in our democratic society. It is from that openness, and the public participation it enables, that much needed trust in our public authorities can be rebuilt.

"FOI is such a powerful and valuable tool. The data shows that most FOI requests are successful in securing disclosure of information. My message to people is: it's your right, so use it as you see fit, and appeal to my office if you are unhappy with the response you get.

"It's heartening to see how much the FOI right is used, and how it helps people to raise important issues and achieve positive change, from campaigning on local issues to identifying how public funds have been spent, highlighting NHS waiting times or checking the safety of public buildings. It's about what people want to know, not necessarily what authorities think they want or need to know."

There are some exemptions to the FOI right, but even then, seventy four percent of FOI requests made last year resulted in information being disclosed to the requester. Of those who appealed to the Commissioner's office, 65% received a decision which found wholly or partly in their favour.

In 2017/18 the Commissioner's office investigated 19% more appeals than the previous year from requesters who were unhappy with the authority's response. The Commissioner outlined how, during the same period, he proactively intervened 230 times to improve public authorities' FOI practice and performance:

"It's not just about appeals. We're seeking to improve practice across the board, and improve requesters' experiences, even if they don't appeal."

The Annual Report demonstrates other steps taken by the Commissioner's office to enforce and promote FOI law over 2017/18. These include:

  • completing a training roadshow tour of Scotland, which 99% of delegates rated as "good" or "excellent";
  • producing a video to promote FOI rights to young people, in response to survey data which showed only 25% of secondary school pupils in Scotland are aware of their FOI rights, and only 28% are confident they would receive a response to an FOI request;
  • commissioning a third wave of mystery shopper research into how well authorities are meeting their publication duties, and intervening where appropriate to address identified failings.

ENDS

For further information contact the Commissioner's press team on 01334 464610, out of hours on 01334 464619, or email media@itspublicknowledge.info.

Read the Annual Report and Accounts 2017/18.

 

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