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Spending cuts likely to drive public to make more use of their FOI rights

News release: 15 December 2010

A survey published today, conducted by Holyrood Magazine and the Scottish Information Commissioner, has found that nearly three quarters of those asked expect the general public to make more use of their right to information under freedom of information (FOI) laws as spending cuts take effect in Scotland.

The survey polled public authority officials, legal advisers, civil society groups and other FOI specialists prior to Holyrood's 8th Annual Freedom of Information Conference, being held today in Edinburgh. It also found that the majority felt that the case for FOI was unaffected by the economic downturn, with 21% believing the case for FOI is strengthened by the current economic problems, as members of the public want to see that public authorities are spending money wisely.

In spite of this, however, 64% of those questioned expected their organisation to have fewer resources for FOI over the coming years.

Kevin Dunion, Scottish Information Commissioner, said

"As public authorities face up to difficult decisions about where to spend and where to cut, there is a recognition that the public will want to know why certain tough choices have been made, and how the services they rely on are going to be affected.

"The task for all of us is to ensure that the FOI regime continues to deliver on the public's right to know, despite the cutbacks. We have to draw upon good practice developed over the past 6 years to ensure requests are dealt with efficiently and with least demand upon public authorities' resources."

Holyrood's 8th Annual Holyrood FOI Conference takes place today (15 December 2010) at The Sheraton Hotel in Edinburgh.

ENDS

For further information contact the Commissioner's Media Team on 01334 464610, out of hours on 07976 511752, or email media@itspublicknowledge.info

 

Notes to Editors:

  • Holyrood's 8th Annual FOI conference 'The case for openness and transparency', supported by the Scottish Information Commissioner, takes place on Wednesday 15 December 2010, at The Sheraton Hotel in Edinburgh.
  • Key speakers are: Bruce Crawford MSP, Minister for Parliamentary Business; Kevin Dunion, Scottish Information Commissioner; Dr Nat O'Connor, Policy Analyst, Dublin Think-Talk TASC; Belinda Lewis, Head of Information Policy Division at the Ministry of Justice; and Dr Ben Worthy, The Constitution Unit, University College London.
  • For a copy of the programme click here: http://foi.holyrood.com/agenda
  • Holyrood Magazine and the Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner jointly ran an online survey, between 1 and 10 December 2010.
  • The survey, comprising 4 questions, was sent to all registered delegates and others on the invite list who had yet to respond. 89 started the survey, 77 completed it.
  • The results were as follows:

 How is case for FOI affected by the economic downturn?  
 Strengthened - people want to see authorities spending money wisely 21.3% 
 Weakened ? cost authorities could do without  19.1%
 Unaffected - rights are independent of economic considerations  59.6%

 Spending cuts will drive the public to make more use of FOI. 
 Strongly agree  13.6%
 Agree  59.1%
 Disagree  25%
 Strongly disagree  2.3%

 I expect my organisation to have fewer resources for FOI over next few years. 
 Strongly agree  25%
 Agree  38.6%
 Disagree  20.5%
 Strongly disagree  6.8%
 Not applicable to me  9.1%

 

 Proactive access to larger volumes of Government data and information would ? (select up to 3)
 Enable data specialists to profit commercially from analysing data 56.1% 
 Help only those with the right skills to scrutinise the Government  47.6%
 Overwhelm members of the general public  43.9%
 Help everyone to hold the Government to account  32.9%
 Discourage member of the public from making FOI requests  15.9%
 Have another effect altogether  15.9%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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