Holyrood Magazine's 8th Annual FOI Conference, supported by the Commissioner, took place in Edinburgh in December 2010. The conference is a much-anticipated regular feature of the FOI calendar, presenting an important opportunity for Scotland's FOI community to get together and learn together. This year, over 100 delegates and speakers engaged in lively debate and discussion about the future of FOI in Scotland.
The conference gives Scotland an opportunity to learn from the experience of other jurisdictions. In 2010, Dr Nat O'Connor, from Dublin-based think tank TASC, presented the conclusions of his research into the charging of upfront fees in Ireland, which highlighted some of the problems associated with this approach. He spoke about the importance of having a strong FOI regime in times of economic challenge, concluding that, at such times, it is more important than ever that people can hold government to account.
This critical message was reinforced by a delegate poll which the Commissioner and Holyrood Magazine ran prior to the conference. 63% of respondents believed spending cuts would drive the public to make greater use of FOI, while 64% anticipated that authorities would have fewer resources for FOI over coming years.
The Commissioner shared his view on the practical measures that authorities can take to meet these challenges, drawn from evidence gathered through his programme of practice assessments of public authorities. Delegates had the chance to put this advice into practice through a series of practical workshops designed to enable them to build skills in areas as diverse as records management, dealing with requests for review and using FOI as a campaigning tool.
Minister for Parliamentary Business, Bruce Crawford, talked about the measures the Government has taken to improve its own practice, and restated the Government's commitment to openness and transparency in Scotland, while also announcing his intention to bring forward an FOI Amendment Bill in 2011.
A snapshot of the day is available by viewing the video clip above.
The annual conference looks set to remain a keynote FOI event in Scotland, and the Commissioner looks forward to another successful conference in 2011.