News In Focus
Dunion issues 1,000th decision
The Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion, has published his milestone 1,000th decision since the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act came into force in January 2005. In it, he orders the Scottish Government to release information relating to staging and catering for meetings of its Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), and to carry out further searches for relevant information.
The Commissioner found the Government had not been justified in its refusal to disclose data, following a freedom of information request by a Scottish journalist, and that it had failed to confirm that officials had conducted an appropriate search.
The Commissioner found that ministers had been correct to conclude that some information was available through its website, and could therefore be accessed by the requester through alternate means. He also found, however, that they failed to make an appropriate case for the non-disclosure of the remainder of the information falling within the scope of the requests, despite having been invited to do so. The Commissioner therefore ordered the disclosure of this information.
Publishing his decision, Mr Dunion said: “I have now issued a substantial body of rulings in the five and a half years since Scotland’s freedom of information laws came into force. This 1,000th case is not untypical. Around two thirds of my decisions find in favour, or partially in favour, of the applicant.
“By now, all public authorities should be fully aware of their duties when responding to FOI requests. They should understand the need to present clear arguments when they decide to withhold information and those arguments should stand up to scrutiny in the event of an appeal. Where, as in this case, a public authority fails to make an appropriate case, I will order the release of information. With all this experience behind us, I expect authorities to get their responses – to FOI requesters and to me – right first time.”