4 February 2024
The Scottish Information Commissioner has launched an intervention into the Scottish Ministers' practices in relation to the use and retention of informal communications using tools such as WhatsApp.
The intervention has been launched as a result of the evidence and statements made during Module 2A of the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, which is examining pandemic-related decision-making in Scotland.
In launching this intervention, the Scottish Information Commissioner, David Hamilton said:
"The evidence disclosed during Module 2A if the UK Covid -19 Inquiry over the last few weeks raises significant practice concerns which warrant further investigation by my office.
"The failure to retain or even record a complete set of the decision-making processes has not only deprived the Inquiry of information, but also frustrated the public's right to request information and generally undermined the spirit of Freedom of Information.
"It is critical that public officials retain information which allows the public to understand how decisions are reached, for both record keeping requirements and to maintain public confidence. Understanding how decisions are reached is how public trust in decisions are secured and lessons learned for the future.
"It is evident from this week's events that the use of informal communication channels present risks to transparency and accountability within government. My intervention will review current practices as well as identifying actions to be taken to ensure improvements are made in relation to how officials and Ministers use and retain informal communications in future."
Find out more about this intervention to improve the Scottish Government's communications and records.
This intervention is launched alongside an ongoing intervention to improve the Scottish Government's FOI practice and performance. In recent months there has been a significant improvement in response to the intervention actions taken by our office. For example, the Scottish Government has eliminated its backlog of FOI requests, while responses on time are currently being sustained at 95% or more, compared to 74% this time last year.