Commissioner’s letter to the Minister for Parliamentary Business

16 November 2017

The Commissioner's letter of 15 November 2017 to Joe FitzPatrick MSP, Minister for Parliamentary Business, is published below. The letter follows a meeting on 25 October 2017 where they discussed the agreed Parliamentary Motion S5M-06126.

The letter notes:

  • The significant improvement in the Government's performance in responding to requests and reviews on time as a result of an intervention by the Commissioner (since March 2017).
  • The Commissioner is exploring the carrying out of a further intervention into the Scottish Government's FOI practice under his Enforcement Policy. The new intervention will examine concerns raised in the May letter from journalists to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body and the June debate on the Parliamentary Motion. It will examine issues of culture and practice, and allegations of the use of deliberate delaying tactics and requests being blocked or refused for tenuous reasons. The intervention will have a "quality assurance" focus, with the intention of both identifying and remedying issues.

Letter to Minister for Parliamentary Business

Background information

  • The Commissioner's Enforcement Policy sets out our approach to using enforcement powers and the outcomes that enforcement aims to achieve. Our Intervention Procedures (on the same page) explain how we monitor and intervene to improve authority compliance with FOI law. There are four levels of interventions: 1. informal advice, 2. Checking an authority has remedied a problem, 3. Requiring specific action, 4. Enforcement Notice or Practice Recommendation.
  • See the journalists' open letter of 31 May 2017, to the Scottish Parliament selection panel for the Scottish Information Commissioner appointment.
  • Scottish Parliamentary Motion S5M-06126, lodged 19 June 2017 and agreed 21 June 2017, welcomed commitments by the Scottish Government to adopt a policy of pro-actively publishing all material released under FOI to ensure that it is as widely available as possible and called for:
    • an independent inquiry into how the Scottish Government deals with FOI requests, and
    • post legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002
  • The Motion is being considered by two Scottish Parliament Committees:
    • The Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee has corresponded with the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body and the Minister for Parliamentary Business about who should establish the independent inquiry. See the correspondence.
    • The Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee is considering a shortlist of Acts for post-legislative scrutiny. The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 is one of the shortlisted Acts under consideration.

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