Lord Wallace opens new Centre for Freedom of Information

27 January 2009




The new Centre for Freedom of Information is to be launched on 29 January with an inaugural presentation by Jim Wallace, former Deputy First Minister, now Lord Wallace of Tankerness. The Centre, a joint venture between the Law School of the University of Dundee and the Scottish Information Commissioner, will provide a central focus for developing research into freedom of information issues.

Professor Alan Page, Dean of the Law School and Co-Director of the new Centre with Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion, explained the background to the Centre, "Our culture is changing, transparency and openness are things we expect much more now. However, we haven't entirely moved into the light. We need to focus on the benefits rather than the costs of freedom of information and to find out what is actually happening in this area rather than relying on anecdotal evidence."

Kevin Dunion, the Scottish Information Commissioner, sees the Centre as an opportunity to bring together both research and experience, a place to discuss and explore the current issues in freedom of information: "We must ensure that our legislation, practice and culture are continually examined and reviewed if Scotland is to be at the forefront of international freedom of information practice. The Centre is an exciting opportunity to enable us to review and refresh our thinking in an academic setting, to share our own experience and to evaluate it against that of other FOI jurisdictions throughout the world. ".

In his address, entitled "Freedom of Information: Hope and Experience", Lord Wallace will set the scene for the new Centre by reflecting on his experience of supporting the development of Scotland's freedom of information law, one of the first Acts of the Scottish Parliament. His work involved substantial research of other countries, including New Zealand and detailed consideration of how Scotland's own regime could incorporate the principles of best practice. His personal observations about how the legislation has rolled out in practice and the future challenges ahead will inform a discussion, chaired by Professor Janet McLean, among participants at the seminar (who include users of the legislation, academic staff and researchers, lawyers and public authority practitioners).


For further information contact the Commissioner's Media Team on 01334 464610, out of hours on 07976 511752, or email media@itspublicknowledge.info

Notes to Editors:

About the seminar

1.00 ? 4.00 pm, Thursday 29 January in the Dalhousie Building, University of Dundee campus.

This inaugural seminar is the first of a series of three seminars planned for Spring 2009.

Future seminars are as follows:

Friday 27 March: Freedom of information in the devolved Scotland,chaired by Lord Rodger of Earlsferry.

Thursday 28 May: Reflected glory? How does Scotland stand in the world of FOI?

Further information about the Centre

More information about the aims of the Centre and how to apply to attend a seminar are available on the Centre's website at www.centrefoi.org.uk

Speaker details

Lord Wallace of Tankerness

Lord James Wallace, Baron Wallace of Tankerness is currently a life peer in the House of Lords. He was formerly Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, MP for Orkney and Shetland, MSP for Orkney and the first Deputy First Minister.  Having led consultation on the Government's proposal for "An Open Scotland?" in 1999, Lord Wallace was then charged with steering the Freedom of Information Bill through the first session of the Scottish Parliament http://biographies.parliament.uk/parliament/default.asp?id=32642

Professor Alan Page

Dean of the Law School of the University of Dundee, Professor Page specialises in constitutional law, administrative law and European Community law. He has published extensively in the fields of public law, EC law and the financial services law. More information: http://www.dundee.ac.uk/law/staffprofiles/page/index.php

Kevin Dunion

Kevin Dunion is the first Scottish Information Commissioner, appointed by HM The Queen in 2003. He is responsible for the enforcement and promotion of Scotland's freedom of information laws. Since these came into force in 2005, he has issued more than 700 decisions in respect of appeals. Some of these decisions have been particularly high profile, including the disclosure of MSP expenses, surgical mortality data and the release of an entire PFI contract. More information: http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/home/AboutSIC/CommissionerBiography.aspx

Professor Janet McLean

Professor of Law and Governance at the University of Dundee since 2006, Professor Janet McLean specialises in the field of bills of rights, judicial review, the organisation of the executive, privatisation and the interaction between domestic and international law. She has published widely across public law topics. More information: http://www.dundee.ac.uk/law/staffprofiles/mclean/index.php

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