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Commissioner publishes report on Scottish Government’s FOI performance

10 September 2020

The Scottish Information Commissioner has published a report on the progress made by the Scottish Government on improving its performance when responding to freedom of information (FOI) requests. The report is published as part of the Commissioner’s ongoing intervention, launched in 2017, to improve the Scottish Government’s performance in this area.

The Commissioner’s report finds that, while the Scottish Government made significant progress towards delivering FOI improvement between April 2019 and March 2020, this progress was not sustained as the Scottish Government responded to the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over this period, the proportion of FOI requests responded to within the legal time limit of 20 working days fell from 95% to 58% between March and May 2020. The Commissioner also notes that a range of measures put in place to improve FOI performance have been significantly disrupted as the Scottish Government responded to the pandemic.

Scottish Information Commissioner Daren Fitzhenry said:

“While some disruption from the Covid-19 pandemic is to be expected, the extent and speed of the Scottish Government’s recent decline raises real concerns about the long-term sustainability of its FOI improvement work. I would urge Ministers to direct immediate attention towards this work to ensure that the recent improvements are safeguarded and protected.

“Failing to take action at this time will send a dangerous message to staff and the wider public about the perceived importance of openness, transparency and accountability through FOI, at a time when the public benefit arising from these characteristics has never been clearer.”

The Commissioner’s report recommends that the Scottish Government take a number of steps to protect its FOI function, including restoring trained staff to key FOI roles.

The Commissioner’s full Intervention Progress Report is available at www.itspublicknowledge.info/SGIntervention.

 

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