Centre for FOI

A space to reflect...

January 2009 saw the launch of an important new initiative – the Centre for Freedom of Information in Dundee. The Centre is a collaborative venture between the Scottish Information Commissioner and the Law School of the University of Dundee.

It provides opportunities for anyone involved in the development and growth of Scotland's freedom of information culture to come together and reflect on, discuss and explore relevant issues. Alongside this, it will create a central point for the development of research into FOI issues, as well as opportunities to transfer knowledge, shape practice and promote learning.

A programme for development...

Following the launch, two series of seminars were held by the Centre in 2009. The Spring seminar series covered areas as diverse as the ambitions for – and reality of – FOI in Scotland, the relationship between FOI and devolution and an assessment of Scotland's international FOI standing. Each of these reflected on how far Scotland's FOI regime has come, and the challenges for the future.

The Autumn seminars were more practically focuses, covering the interaction between FOI and data protection, issues around access to environmental information, and a consideration of where the public interest lies in relation to information held by the police.

Over 300 delegates attended the seminars, to hear the reflections of an impressive line-up of expert speakers. These included the former Deputy First Minister, Jim Wallace (now Lord Wallace of Tankerness), Nataša Pirc Musar, the Slovenian Information Commissioner, Christine O'Neill of Brodies LLP, David Banisar of Privacy International and Dr Áine Ryall from the University of Cork. Lively audience discussions were chaired by Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Rosalind McInnes of BBC Scotland and Professor Janet McLean of the Dundee Law School.

A plan for the future...

The issues explored during the 2009 seminar series are advising the development of a major research programme for the Centre. The Dundee Law School is also currently piloting an FOI module in its Master of Laws (LLM) programme.

Further seminar series are also planned for 2010. The first event has already been held in February, exploring the interplay between FOI and commercial interests. In March the Centre is looking forward to hosting a lecture on the US Experience of FOI by Professor Daniel J Metcalfe from the Washington College of Law. During more than 25 years in government service, Dan guided all federal agencies on the government-wide administration of the FOI Act and supervised the defence of over 500 FOI and Privacy Act lawsuits.

For more information about the activities of the Centre for FOI and to register for news, visit www.centrefoi.org.uk.