Dunion Makes Case for Scottish FOI Reforms

13 January 2012

Outgoing Scottish Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion has urged reform of the 2002 Scottish freedom of information law, making his case in a report and warning that Scotland is in danger of falling behind other countries.

Public awareness of FOI rights are at an all-time high, he said, but authorities are failing to deal with requests properly and the coverage of the law needs to be expanded. 

Dunion, whose is leaving at the end of February, expressed concern that private companies performing public functions are not within the scope of the law. He suggested that ministers to use their powers to designate such bodies under the FOI law.

He also urged an amendment to extend the time within which a prosecution can be brought in cases where information has been destroyed or altered to prevent disclosure. Dunion also said the commissioner should have the power to take evidence about information, under oath if necessary.

He warned against the introduction of charges that deter requests.

Overall, the commissioner in office since 2003 concluded that the state of freedom of information in Scotland is “still strong,” according to a summary of his views which continued:  “Public awareness of FOI rights is at an all time high and public authorities are generally complying with their obligations.  However he warns that appeals against authorities are rising sharply, with appeals for 2011/12 projected to be 25% up on 2010/11.  Increasingly, the Commissioner’s decisions are finding that authorities have failed to deal with requests correctly.”

The news release on his remarks notes that only one of his recommendations are addressed in amendments proposed Dec. 16 by ministers.  (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)

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