FOI in changing times: Commissioner publishes Annual Report 2019-20

25 September 2020

Today the Scottish Information Commissioner has published his Annual Report and Accounts for the year 2019-20.

In publishing, the Commissioner Daren Fitzhenry said:

“I am publishing my Annual Report at a time dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic. While freedom of information in Scotland has certainly not been immune from the impact of the pandemic, the importance of the right to information is one clear constant.

“Inevitably we all have questions about the decisions being made by our governments and public services. Never more so than at a time when those decisions, sadly, may mean the difference between life and death.

“This is why it is so vital that Scotland’s law ensures everyone has a right to seek information from public authorities and – with only very few, limited exceptions – to receive it.”

Key statistics from the report include:

  • 79,300 FOI requests were made to Scottish public bodies during the year. 12.6% of these were for environmental information (an increase from 10.3% in 2018-19).*
  • 76% of requests to Scottish public authorities resulted in full or partial disclosure of information to the requester (an increase from 75% in 2018-19)*
  • 251 interventions regarding authority practice improvements were carried out by the Commissioner (compared to 252 in 2018-19 and 234 in 2017-18)
  • There were 494 appeals made to the Commissioner (0.6% of total requests made to Scottish public bodies). 75% of appeals were made by members of the public 
  • On average, cases appealed to the Commissioner were closed within 3.4 months 
  • 23% of valid appeals to the Commissioner related to an authority’s failure to respond 
  • 67% of the Commissioner’s decisions found wholly or partially in favour of the requester (an increase from 65% in 2018-19)

Please note that this annual report covers the period 1 April 2019 – 31 March 2020. The Commissioner will publish an initial insights briefing specifically examining the impact of the Covid-19 on FOI in Scotland later in 2020. 

The Commissioner’s team and services

 While the Commissioner’s office premises are currently closed in line with government guidance, he and his team are working remotely using secure systems and most services are still available.

For more information on current services or the Commissioner’s annual report, please contact us.

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*Figures derived from those available in the Commissioner’s statistics portal as at 13 July 2020.

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