Letter: FOI in Scotland not an ‘abject failure’

Letter: FOI in Scotland not an 'abject failure'

Dear Editor,

The Scottish Legal News [headline] from 3 November on the publication of our 2021-22 report to the Scottish Parliament [“Abject failure of Scotland’s FOI regime highlighted by irritated public”] isn’t reflective of the text in the article that follows and isn’t supported by the data reported through our parliamentary report.

As the article notes, it’s certainly the case that we’ve seen a significant increase in FOI appeals being made to the Commissioner last year, with appeal numbers rising to 626; a 29 per cent increase on the 486 appeals received during 2020-21. We’ve therefore undoubtedly seen more appeals being made to the Commissioner where people are dissatisfied with a public authority’s response to their FOI request.

However, putting this information in context (and as noted in the article), these 626 appeals account for less than one per cent of the total number of FOI requests made in Scotland each year, and the available data also indicates that most FOI requests (86 per cent) are answered within the statutory FOI time limit of 20 working days. Data also suggests that the majority of requests made (73 per cent) result in the disclosure of some or all of the requested information (while, for the remainder, a further 10 per cent are refused because the public authority doesn’t have the requested information).

While there is – as evidenced through our work investigating FOI appeals and conducting interventions to help improve performance – undoubtedly some room-for-improvement in the FOI performance of a number of Scottish public authorities, we hope you’d agree that the information in the article does not justify the extreme description of Scotland’s FOI regime used in your original headline.

Paul Mutch
Freedom of Information Officer
Scottish Information Commissioner

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