Commentary

2010 milestones

2010 was a busy year for FOI in Scotland. A number of significant milestones were reached, including the 5th anniversary of the FOI right, and the issuing by the Commissioner of his 1000th decision and his first practice recommendation. For more details, click on the tabs below.

1 January

The 5th Anniversary of FOI in Scotland is celebrated with high profile media coverage of the success of FOI in Scotland.

4 January

Research is published into the Scottish voluntary sector's experience of using FOI. The research reveals that, while there is strong awareness of FOI within the voluntary sector, a significant proportion – 49% – would be discouraged from using FOI because of a fear that it might harm working or funding relations.

14 January

The Commissioner chairs a roundtable discussion, in partnership with the Journal of the Law Society of Scotland, to reflect on the past, present and future of FOI in Scotland, as part of the 5th Anniversary celebrations.

26 January

New guidance is published by the Commissioner to assist public authorities when assessing the validity of FOI requests, in response to a 2009 court ruling.

4 February

Michael Matheson MSP hosts a reception at the Scottish Parliament to celebrate the 5th Anniversary of FOI. The event features speakers including the Commissioner and Minister for Parliamentary Business Bruce Crawford. Around 160 invited guests, including requesters, public authority officials, campaigners and elected representatives attend.

11 February

The first seminar in the Centre for FOI's 2010 seminar series takes place in Dundee. The focus of the seminar is the relationship between FOI and commercial interests.

8 March

The Commissioner launches his 2009 Annual Report. For the first time, the report is available primarily online, and is supported by a short summary report directing stakeholders to the online version.

24 March

Professor Dan Metcalfe, who was responsible for guiding the US Government's federal FOI response for over 25 years, addressed a Centre for FOI [Sharing Experience > Centre for FOI]seminar in Edinburgh.

31 March

A new homepage for the Commissioner's website is launched. The refreshed homepage is part of the Commissioner's ongoing web development programme.

7 April

The Commissioner finds in decision 055/2010, that the request made by the applicant was vexatious. This case was one of a number of cases during 2010 where the Commissioner ruled on this issue.

5 May

The Commissoner's staff host a visit from Margaret Thompson of the New Zealand Law Commission, who was seeking to learn from the Scottish experience as part of a review of New Zealand's 28-year-old FOI law.

7 May

Kevin Dunion addresses an international conference of FOI experts in Stockholm, on the Scottish experience of implementing the FOI 'harm tests'.

8 May

Staff from the Commissioner's office host workshops at the Enable Scotland Conference, providing those with learning difficulties, their carers and those who support them with information on using FOI effectively.

19 May

The Court of Session issues its ruling in relation to an appeal brought by three housing associations against the Commissioner's decision that Strathclyde Police had been right to withhold statistical data relating to sex offenders.

26 May

The Commissioner's longest running case, which concerned access to childhood leukaemia statistics, is concluded. The case, which involved detailed consideration of the interaction between FOI and the Data Protection Act, was not only the first ever application to be received by the Commissioner, but was also the first to subsequently be appealed to the House of Lords.

18 June

Kevin Dunion is the keynote speaker at a conference in Edinburgh entitled 'How can public authorities meet their FOI obligations economically, efficiently and effectively?'

29 June

The Commissioner orders the release of information from 131 documents to the family of Shirley McKie, in a decision which brought one of the most complex FOI investigations to date to a close.

6 July

The Commissioner issues his first practice recommendation to Scottish Borders Council, following a practice assessment carried out in February.

13 July

The Commissioner and the Scottish Government settle a court case in which the terms of an information notice issued by the Commissioner had been appealed by the Government to the Court of Session. The settlement of this case means that, for the first time since 2005, there are no live appeals waiting to be heard by the Court of Session.

29 July

The Scottish Government publishes its consultation paper on extending coverage of the FOI Act to apply to a range of additional bodies. (The Government later announces in January 2011 that it does not intend to go ahead with the extension of FOI at this time.)

30 July

The 1000th decision is published by the Commissioner. The decision requires the release of administrative information relating to meetings of the Scottish Government's Council of Economic Advisers.

21 August

The 'Freedom of Information – What Difference Has It Made?' event at the Scottish Parliament's Festival of Politics brought requesters from across Scotland together to share their experiences of using the FOI right.

7 September

The Commissioner launches a consultation on proposals to revise the way that publication schemes are developed and approved.

21 October

A Centre for FOI seminar exploring new developments in FOI is held. At the event, the Scottish Government advises that a review of the FOI Act will be undertaken in 2011.

2 November

The Commissioner's response to the Scottish Government's consultation on the extension of FOI is published.

5 November

The Commissioner's 5th Anniversary of FOI Campaign wins two awards at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations 2010 PRide Awards, including the gold award for 'Best Public Sector Campaign'.

17 November

Dealing with vexatious requests is the subject of a Centre for FOI seminar in Dundee.

19 November

A decision is published in which the Commissioner concludes that the Scottish Government acted correctly in withholding information relating to the names of the doctors who diagnosed the condition and life expectancy of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi.

6 December

Staff from the Commissioner's office visit Inverness to host training workshops and one-to-one surgeries for voluntary organisations, individuals and the media on the effective use of FOI.

7 December

The Commissioner welcomes a report showing that Scottish Borders Council substantially improved its FOI performance, following the issue of his practice recommendation in July.

15 December

The Scottish Government publishes its revised Code of Practice for Scottish Public Authorities under Sections 60 and 62 of the FOI Act.

15 December

The 8th Annual Holyrood FOI Conference takes place in Edinburgh. Research published to coincide with the Conference also reveals that public authority practitioners expect the public to make more use of their FOI rights as spending cuts take effect.