During the past couple of months, two appeals have been lodged by public authorities in the Court of Session against decisions of the Commissioner.
The first of these relates to a request made by a journalist from The Daily Telegraph who asked the Ministers for information about local income tax projections. The second relates to a request made to South Lanarkshire Council by an equal pay campaigner for the numbers of employees on specific pay points within the Council.
No dates have yet been set for the hearings.
Reporting on the media
On 28 March the Commissioner hosted a roundtable discussion to explore the ways in which FOI is used by the Scottish media - and the ways in which authorities respond to journalists' requests.
The event, which was organised in partnership with Holyrood Magazine, was attended by journalists, FOI experts and information practitioners, and a wide range of topics was covered in what proved to be a lively and interesting debate.
A report on the debate is available online from the Holyrood Magazine website. You can also hear the Commissioner reflect on the discussion in a podcast interview with Quiet News Day.
As part of our 2011/12 Operational Plan, we will be undertaking a series of FOI "Roadshows" around the country throughout the year. The centrepiece of these roadshow events will be a two-hour FOI workshop, entitled Making freedom of information work for you.
Workshops will be open to staff or volunteers from campaign groups and voluntary sector organisations, as well as any member of the public with an interest in finding out how to make effective use of FOI, and how the FOI "right to information" may benefit their own campaign, research or information gathering activity.
Workshops are currently planned for:
- Dumfries and Galloway (Castle Douglas and Dumfries) - Tuesday 21 June 2011
- Fife (Cupar) - Tuesday 28 June 2011
- Strathclyde (Glasgow) - Tuesday 30 August 2011.
If you are interested in attending any of these workshops, or would like more information, telephone 01334 464610, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
FOI in West Africa
The Commissioner has been invited to visit Ghana in June to speak to delegates from across West Africa on his experience of the successful implementation of FOI. Delegates will attend from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana, each of which is currently at the early stages of implementing its own national FOI law.
The visit, which is funded by the World Bank, is part of a programme of events organised by the South African International School for Transparency and the US Carter Center, aimed at exploring and promoting the benefits of open governance for the region.
FOI appeal timescales further reduced
We are pleased to report that the Commissioner's 2010/11 operational plan objective to reduce the average timescale of cases under investigation to 22 weeks was achieved - itself a reduction from the 2009/10 objective of 26 weeks.
For 2011/12, we are seeking to reduce this timescale further, and will be working towards a new target of 20 weeks, in order to ensure that the FOI appeals brought to the Commissioner can be resolved as swiftly and effectively as possible.
Commissioner's handbook to be published in October
The Commissioner's handbook on FOI is scheduled to be published in October 2011, the manuscript having been submitted this month to Dundee University Press for publication.
The book, entitled Freedom of Information in Scotland in Practice, will be an international first, in that it is the first time that a serving Commissioner has published detailed guidance on the interpretation and enforcement of FOI law in this way. Watch this space for details of how to obtain a copy of this essential new publication.
New "Your Rights" pages provide FOI advice
In April we launched new web pages for members of the public looking for guidance on using their FOI rights. As well as information on making a request, and what to do if information is refused, these pages also contain a range of innovative resources to help people better understand how to use their FOI rights. These include a short animated guide to FOI, video stories of typical FOI requesters talking about their experiences and, of course, our popular "response calculator" which explains when you should expect to receive a response to your information request under FOI.
The new resources are available at www.itspublicknowledge.info/yourrights.
The animated guide and video case studies can also be downloaded free of charge, so that public authorities, voluntary organisations and others can use the resources when providing their own information on FOI.
Improved information on finance and governance
We have published new information on our finance, expenditure and governance arrangements on our website. This includes our first annual statements of expenditure on PR, hospitality and overseas travel, external consultancy and items of expenditure over ?25,000, as required by the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010.
The new web pages also provide more information about how the Commissioner ensures good governance and is held to account - including an explanation of the relationship between the Commissioner and the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, following the Scottish Parliamentary Commissions and Commissioners etc Act 2010, and the role of his Advisory Audit Board. We will also shortly publish statements under the Act, explaining what we are doing to promote efficiency, effectiveness and economy, and increase sustainable growth.
The new information can be found at www.itspublicknowledge.info/Governance/