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FOI more important than ever in tough times ahead

News release: 2 November 2011

The importance of freedom of information looks set to grow, as the effects of difficult economic decisions take effect, Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion, will tell MSPs today as he publishes his final annual report.

Speaking as he visits the Scottish Parliament to talk to MSPs about FOI, Mr Dunion said that statistics published in his Annual Report 2010/11 show that appeals to his office are on the rise, with a 20% increase in the first 3 months of 2011.  Noting that there are a growing number of appeals relating to employment, finance and expenses, he said:

"Cuts in public expenditure may lead to more people using their rights to ask for information concerning matters affecting their jobs and services, with authorities having to respond to such requests despite constrained staff resources and training budgets."

Despite the rising trend in applications overall, Dunion will tell MSPs that there appears to be a decline in their own use of FOI, with elected members making only 1% of applications to the Commissioner in 2010/11.  Speaking to MSPs at the event in the Scottish Parliament entitled "Making the most of your right to know", the Commissioner will say:

"It is vital that our elected members appreciate both the importance of a strong FOI regime in Scotland, and the value of FOI as a tool in their constituency work".

The Commissioner's Annual Report for 2010/11 was laid before the Scottish Parliament on Friday 28 October 2011.

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:

Key highlights from the Annual Report 2010/11

  • This is the Commissioner's eighth annual report and his last before leaving office in February 2012.
  • The report was laid before the Scottish Parliament on 28 October 2011.
  • It is the first to report on the financial year (April 2010 to March 2011). Previous annual reports have reported on calendar year. The last annual report, for 2010, was published in March 2011.
  • You can view the online version and download a PDF copy at Annual Report 2010/11.

Key highlights:

  • The Commissioner's office has responded to over 10,000 enquiries since FOISA came into force in 2005.
  • 80% of enquiries in 2010/11 came from members of the general public ? only 8% were from the media and 1% from elected members.
  • The number of applications relating to employment, finance and expenses has grown from 15% of applications in 2009/10 to 24% in 2010/11.
  • The volume of applications is growing ? 126 in the first three months of 2011, against a predicted 105.
  • Most applications ? 75% - come from members of the general public.
  • The number of cases closed with decision increased by 47%, from 179 cases closed in 2009/10 to 263 in 2010/11.
  • The Commissioner's office has undertaken 26 practice assessments to the end of March 2011 ? 42% of which were of local government bodies.
  • The average age of cases open at the end of 2010/11 was 4.4 months ? the lowest since FOISA came into force.
  • Only 17% of cases under investigation were over six months old at the end of 2010/11, compared to 36% in the preceding financial year.

About the MSP event at the Scottish Parliament ? 2 November 2011

  • The Commissioner is speaking at an event for MSPs, sponsored by Jackie Baillie MSP, on Wednesday 2 November 2011, from 6pm to 7.30pm, in Committee Room 5 at the Scottish Parliament.
  • Entitled "Making the most of your right to know", the event will provide MSPs and their staff with an overview of FOI rights, guidance on using FOI effectively, and a chance to discuss how FOI can help MSPs and their constituents in their activity.
  • Speakers include Ms Baillie, the Commissioner, Michelle Stewart from the C Diff Justice Group and Sandy Longmuir from the Scottish Rural Schools Network.
  • The Commissioner's staff are also operating a drop-in surgery in Room TG.24 between 10am and 5pm, for MSPs or their staff who want to come and discuss any issue relating to FOI.
  • The Commissioner has launched new web resources for MSPs, including FAQS for MSPs, video case studies of requesters, and a "how to" guide to using FOI. This can be found here:Resources for elected members

About the Scottish Information Commissioner

  • Kevin Dunion was appointed as the first Scottish Information Commissioner in February 2003. In February 2008 he was reappointed for a second, and final term. He is responsible for enforcing and promoting Scotland's freedom of information laws. Kevin will demit office in February 2012.  See The Scottish Information Commissioner's biography.

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