Impact of Covid-19 on FOI in Scotland:
Special Report published

17 December 2020

Public authorities must continue to prioritise freedom of information (FOI) through the Covid-19 pandemic, Scottish Information Commissioner Daren Fitzhenry has said.

Since temporary emergency changes were made to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 earlier this year, The Scottish Information Commissioner has sought to monitor the impact of these changes closely. Today he published a Special Report on this matter, and laid it before the Scottish Parliament.

The Commissioner said: “At times such as these, information, and the right to seek and receive it, have never been more important. Sharing of information can help save lives. FOI is an essential part of an effective response to the pandemic, and must remain a priority.

“In my Special Report on the impact of Covid-19 on freedom of information in Scotland, I highlight that the pandemic has caused delays to some responses to information requests since March 2020, but the impact on FOI in Scotland does not appear to be as significant as some may have feared, and public authorities have generally taken a proactive approach to publication of information about the pandemic.

“However, reallocation of resources has been the most common pandemic-related cause of delays to FOI responses, and this underlines the importance of properly resourcing FOI functions. Those authorities which have deprioritised their FOI function risk damaging not only their FOI performance, but also the corresponding public trust in their organisations if these structures and related resource are not restored.

“I anticipate that the pandemic will continue to have an impact on FOI practice for some time yet. However, any deprioritising of authorities’ internal FOI infrastructure which has taken place this year must be undone if good FOI performance is to be sustained. It is essential that any authorities which have not already reinstated their FOI function do so now..”

Further information

Read the report in full or contact the Commissioner’s team for more information.

 

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