Central and local government open their files to the public.

From today, (2 June 2004) the public has a right of access to large amounts of information held by the Scottish Parliament, the Executive, and all of Scotland's local authorities and police forces. The change comes about as part of the implementation process for Scotland's new Freedom of Information legislation which, from 1st January 2005, will give individuals a right of access to information held by all of Scotland's public authorities.

Although the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act does not come fully into force for another seven months, it is already having a significant impact on the way information can be accessed from Scotland's authorities. In the run up to the new rights coming fully into force, each authority covered by the legislation is required to produce a "publication scheme", which contains details of the information which they now intend to routinely make available to the public, along with information on how to access it.

The first wave of schemes, covering central and local government and the police, came into effect today. Schemes covering Scotland's remaining authorities, including the NHS, educational institutions and bodies such as Scottish Water and the Scottish Tourist Board, will follow later this year.

All publication schemes must be approved by Kevin Dunion, the first Scottish Information Commissioner who is charged with enforcing the legislation. He said:

"Publication schemes are the gateway to an extensive range of information about Scotland?s public authorities- about their services, levels of performance and decision making. The publication scheme approval rates clearly indicate that freedom of information is being taken seriously by Scotland's authorities. Only a small number of schemes has so far failed to reach an acceptable standard, and my staff will be working with authorities to ensure that this is corrected."

"Public authorities should now be promoting the information available under the schemes and also making sure that their staff are geared up to respond promptly to requests from the public for that information."

Schemes have been received from all of the bodies covered in the first tranche, and most (96%) have now been approved. It is anticipated that all 139 of the first tranche schemes will be approved by the end of June.

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