The Scottish Information Commissioner - It's Public Knowledge
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New Website Opens Doors to Freedom of Information

News Release: 5th July 2007

 

The Scottish Information Commissioner launches his new website today.

The new site will make it easier for members of the public to understand and exercise their rights under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act - and will also help public authorities, not just to comply with their legal obligations, but to further embrace the spirit of openness which the Act sets out to achieve.

Drawing on over two years' experience since the Act came into force ? which has seen the Commissioner's office receive, each year, over 500 applications and nearly 1,500 enquiries - the new website is designed to be more accessible, searchable and user friendly than its predecessor.

The new look includes clear signposting on the home page to help members of the public, and public authorities get quickly to the parts of the site which are most relevant to them.

For people making information requests, there is an easy three step guide to making a request, and a new response calculator which can show, at the touch of a button, the date when a response is due from a public authority.

And for public authority users there is a more flexible tool for searching the Commissioner's past decisions, guidance on applying exemptions, and an expanded resources area.

The Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion, said "The challenge set by the new freedom of information regime is to move from a culture of secrecy to a culture of openness. My role is not just about enforcing the law but ensuring members of the public feel confident about their rights and encouraging public authorities to go beyond compliance to become more open in all their dealings.  Our new website will actively support this process, by helping all users of the Act, in whatever capacity, make the most of what it has to offer".

The Commissioner's website currently receives an average of 660 hits per day ? nearly 116,000 so far in 2007.  It is the main medium through which information about the Scottish Information Commissioner and his work is communicated to the outside world.

Ends

For further information contact Sue Gemmell or Paul Mutch on 01334 464610 or out of hours, on 07976 511752

Notes to Editors:

  • The Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner's (OSIC's) new website can be found at http://www.itspublicknowledge.info
  • The new website was commissioned following a review of the previous site, 18 months after the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act came into force in January 2005.
  • The contract was awarded to Sunsol International, following a competitive tendering process managed in accordance with the Commissioner's Contracts and Procurement Policy.

About OSIC's Website

  • The OSIC website is the main medium through which information about the Scottish Information Commissioner and his work is communicated to the outside world. It makes a vital contribution to OSIC's strategic objectives to
    • promote improved access to information held by public authorities;
    • foster a better awareness by the public of their rights to information;
  • The core principles of the site are: clarity of subject and access to information and guidance; ease of search; accessibility; motivation for people to use their rights; and promotion of the independence and professionalism of the Scottish Information Commissioner.

The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

  • The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) provides a statutory right of access to all information held by Scottish public authorities. This right came into effect on 1 January 2005.
  • Around 10,000 public authorities in Scotland are covered by FOISA. They include the Scottish Parliament and Executive, police forces, the NHS, local authorities, education institutions, and publicly owned companies.
  • Information can only be withheld by a public authority if it falls under one of the exemptions listed in FOISA. 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 require release.
  • The parties to any case have the right to appeal against the Commissioner's decision to the Court of Session on a point of law only.

The Scottish Information Commissioner

  • Kevin Dunion the Scottish Information Commissioner is a fully independent public official, appointed by the Queen 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 FOISA.

 

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