Scottish Information Commissioner publishes Annual Report 2020-21

15 October 2021

Today the Scottish Information Commissioner has published his Annual Report and Accounts for the year 2020-21. It was laid before the Scottish Parliament on 14 October 2021.

In publishing, the Commissioner Daren Fitzhenry said:

"The right of access to information has never been more relevant: FOI is an essential part of the response to the pandemic, and must remain a priority.

"Though fewer requests for information were made to public authorities across the past year (particularly during the initial period of Covid-19 restrictions), I am heartened to see that almost three quarters still resulted in full or partial disclosure of information.

"My team and I continue to regulate FOI, from investigating appeals made about specific requests to Scottish public authorities, to launching interventions with specific authorities to improve their FOI practice. The temporary closure of our office premises and related disruption, combined with high numbers of appeal cases from 2019-20 and in the second half of 2020-21, have inevitably had some impact on our performance. However, the efforts of the team and our more agile ways of working should stand us in good stead to improve further across the coming year.

"Looking ahead, we will continue to assess the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on FOI, learning lessons and helping authorities to improve. We also look forward to the Scottish Government taking forward the recommendations of the Scottish Parliament's Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee report on the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act. We are ready to provide our input in helping make changes to improve and develop Scotland's FOI system, keeping it up to date and relevant in the post-pandemic world."

Key statistics from the report

  • 69,519 FOI requests were made to Scottish public bodies during the year (a decrease from 81,061 in 2019-20 and from 83,963 in 2018-19). 11.9% of these were for environmental information.
  • 73% of requests to Scottish public authorities resulted in full or partial disclosure of information to the requester (a slight decrease from 76% in 2019-20)
  • 260 interventions regarding authority practice improvements were carried out by the Commissioner (compared to 251 in 2019-20 and 252 in 2018-19)
  • 486 appeals were made to the Commissioner. 81% of appeals were made by members of the public.
  • In a very challenging year, 61% of cases were closed within 4 months, and on average, cases appealed to the Commissioner were closed within 4.37 months
  • 23% of valid appeals to the Commissioner related to an authority's failure to respond
  • 65% of the Commissioner's decisions found wholly or partially in favour of the requester
  • The Commissioner's team responded to 860 enquiries, the majority of which related to requests for advice on making and responding to information requests and requests for review

For more information on our current services or about the Commissioner's annual report, please visit www.ItsPublicKnowledge.info/ContactUs or email enquiries@ItsPublicKnowledge.info.

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