The Information Commissioner for Scotland, Kevin Dunion today published his annual report.
More than 1000 decisions made since he took up his post have made a huge difference to the culture of secrecy that used to pervade public service. There has been an increasing use of FoI with 73% of public authority respondents reporting that FOI requests had increased in the last year, with 38% stating that they had increased 'significantly'.
Freedom of Information legislation has been vital in improving democratic accountability. It is a key tool for members of the public, journalists and campaign organisations like UNISON. An example of how we use FoI was included as a case study in this year's report. This involved our annual survey of violence in the workplace. The information gathered has helped to develop best practice guidance and better protection in the workplace.
One of the most disappointing recent decisions was the outcome of the Scottish Government consultation on extending the FOI Act. The aim was to cover a range of additional bodies that provide important public services, including the Glasgow Housing Association, the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, private prisons, leisure trusts and PFI/PPP contractors. In January 2011 the Government announced that it would not be taking designation forward, a craven capitulation to business lobbying.
The Commissioner rightly criticised that decision and points that that there is a real risk that we could fall behind other countries when our FoI regime used to be a world leader. Lets hope a new Scottish Government after May will take a different view and build on the excellent work the Commissioner and his staff do.