5th anniversary of FOI
January 2010 saw the FOI Act reach a significant milestone, as the 'right to information' in Scotland celebrated its 5th Anniversary. The anniversary presented a unique opportunity to reflect on the impact that the Act has had on public life, while also considering the many successes that requesters from across Scotland have achieved as a result of using their FOI rights.
'5 Years of FOI' Campaign
Between January and March 2010 the Commissioner ran a campaign to highlight the 5th anniversary, and to raise awareness of the FOI right amongst the public and other groups. The campaign generated a wide range of coverage, including national news articles sharing the stories of individual requesters over the last five years, broadcast features on the anniversary launch, and comment and debate on developments in FOI policy.
A 'roundtable' event was organised which brought together FOI practitioners, legal experts and requesters to explore and debate the impact and achievements of FOI over the first five years, and to consider the future challenges for FOI in Scotland.
The 5th Anniversary Campaign, which was developed and delivered by Real PR for the Commissioner, went on two win two awards at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations' 2010 'PRide' Awards in November, including the gold award for 'Best Public Sector Campaign'.
More information on the campaign is available here.
On 4 February 2010, Michael Matheson MSP hosted a reception at the Scottish Parliament as part of the celebrations. Around 160 guests joined the Commissioner, the Minister for Parliamentary Business Bruce Crawford and Mr Matheson to reflect on FOI's success in Scotland, and look forward to the next 5 years.
Invited guests had all been part of Scotland's FOI journey in some way: from individual requesters to public authority practitioners; from FOI campaigners to Lord Wallace, who had introduced the FOI Bill into Parliament. Guests heard from the Commissioner, the Minister and Mr Matheson, and from the Scottish Parliament's Claire Turnbull, who reflected on her experience of responding to hundreds of FOI requests. Donna McSwiggan, of the disabled-persons organisation Inclusion Scotland, also talked passionately about the integral role that FOI had played in their campaigning work to ensure that the housing needs of disabled people can be met.
Festival of Politics
In August, the Commissioner also chaired an event at the Scottish Parliament's Festival of Politics, further exploring the impact that FOI has had in Scotland.
Attendees at the 'FOI – What Difference Has It Made?' event heard personal testimonies from individuals who had successfully used FOI to make a difference for their own communities. These included Michele Stewart of the C Diff Justice Group, who talked about the role that FOI has played in her campaign for a public inquiry into the Clostridium Difficile outbreak at the Vale of Leven hospital in 2008, and Sandy Longmuir of the Scottish Rural Schools Network, who spoke about the use of FOI by parents across Scotland to successfully campaign against the closure of rural schools.
More information on the Festival of Politics event, including audio recordings of the speakers, is available here.