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Commissioner to address St Andrews residents.

NEWS RELEASE - 27th August 2004

Commissioner to address St Andrews residents

Kevin Dunion, the Scottish Information Commissioner, is to meet with residents and business leaders in St Andrews to explain how a new piece of legislation will give local people unprecedented access to information about the decisions which affect their lives.

The Commissioner, whose office is based in St Andrews, will be addressing two meetings in the town in September to discuss his role as the person responsible for enforcing Scotland?s new Freedom of Information legislation. The Act, which will come into force on 1st January 2005, will give individuals the right to request information held by over 10,000 public authorities across Scotland, including the Scottish Executive, local councils, universities and the NHS.

uthorities will only be able to withhold information where the Act permits it, and the Commissioner has the power to force the release of information if an authority fails to comply.

On 16th September, the Commissioner will address a public meeting at St Andrews town hall, which has been arranged jointly by the St Andrews Green Belt Forum and the St Andrews Preservation Trust. At the meeting the Mr Dunion will outline the new right to information under the legislation, and will talk practically about environmental issues affecting the local community where freedom of information is likely to make a difference. The meeting is open to all, and will be held in the Supper Room of the Town Hall at 7:30pm. Anyone seeking more information should contact the St Andrews Preservation Trust on (01334) 477 152.

On the previous day, the 15th September, the Commissioner will address a breakfast meeting of the St Andrews Business Club. During this presentation he will explain why the legislation matters to the business community, and will outline the implications of similar laws for businesses elsewhere in the world.

Said the Commissioner:
?Freedom of information can be used by anyone to request information from public authorities on any subject. The range of information which can be requested is therefore huge, and it is my hope that the new rights will fundamentally change the relationship between communities and the public authorities which serve them. These events provide an opportunity for me to meet with people in St Andrews where I am based and to explain to them what I do and what difference the new legislation will make for matters affecting the community. ?

Ends

For further information contact Claire Sigsworth or Paul Mutch on 01334 464610.

Notes to Editors:

  • The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 provides a statutory right of access to all information held by Scottish public authorities. This right comes into effect on 1st January 2005.
  • From 1st January, information can only be withheld by a public authority if it falls under one of the exemptions listed in the Act. Exemptions include where the information may prejudice national security or defence, or where the release is prohibited by another piece of legislation.
  • If an individual believes an authority is wrong to withhold information, they ultimately have a right of appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner, who can force release.
  • Kevin Dunion is the first Scottish Information Commissioner; promoting freedom of information for everyone in Scotland.
  • The Scottish Information Commissioner is a fully independent public official, appointed by the Queen on 24 February 2003 on the nomination of the Scottish Parliament.
  • His duties and powers are to ensure that people get the information from Scottish public authorities to which they are entitled.
  • His role actively promotes and enforces compliance with the Freedom of Information Act which fully comes into force in 2005. Until then the Commissioner is working towards the smooth implementation of the Act.

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