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FOI request handling has improved, says report 30/09/2016 A new report has found that most Scottish public authorities appear to be getting better at handling Freedom of Information requests.

FOI request handling has improved, says report

A new report has found that most Scottish public authorities appear to be getting better at handling Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

The report, published by the Scottish Information Commissioner, reveals that less than 1% of the 68,000 FOI requests made in Scotland last year were appealed to the Commissioner. The report also reveals that the number of appeals investigated by the Commissioner following an authority's failure to respond to an FOI request fell significantly - from 94 in 2013/14 to 61 this year.

Other statistics published in the Commissioner's 2015/16 Annual Report include:

  • There were 540 appeals made to the Commissioner in 2015/16. This is a 14% increase on last year, but is down from 578 appeals two years ago.
  • The number of "failure to respond" appeals fell significantly in 2015/16. The Commissioner accepted 61 "failure to respond" cases for investigation. This was 16% of her investigation caseload - a significant reduction on the 25% three years ago.
  • Appeals volumes fell for some sectors, most notably for the Scottish Government and its agencies, where appeals fell from 23% of the Commissioner's caseload in 2014/15 to 15% this year (from 111 appeals to 84).
  • Appeal volumes increased for others. Appeals in relation to non-departmental public bodies increased, from 6% of the Commissioner's caseload in 2014/15 to 10% this year. This was largely due to an increase in Scottish Fire and Rescue Service appeals, from 1 in 2014/15 to 12 this year.
  • There was a significant increase in appeals about requests made to Police Scotland. They rose from 9% of appeals last year to 15% in 2015/16 (from 45 to 81 appeals). Three percent of Police Scotland's information requests resulted in an appeal, compared to a national average of 0.8%.
  • Sixty-one percent of appeals came from members of the public. The media accounted for 20% of appeals, and prisoners 7%.
  • Sixty percent of the Commissioner's decisions found wholly or partially in the requester's favour. If an authority has incorrectly withheld information, the Commissioner's decision will require it to be released.

"These signs of improvement in FOI performance are welcome. As my report demonstrates, the majority of information requests result in some or all of the information being disclosed. It is encouraging that only a very small proportion of requests are appealed. I'm also pleased that the number of appeals made about a failure to respond has fallen significantly following our work to tackle this issue,” said Scottish Information Commissioner Rosemary Agnew.

"Unfortunately, our experience is that these improvements are not universal,” she added. “There is still a clear gap between the best performing authorities and those who lag behind. As you will see from my report, my focus still lies in promoting good practice and intervening when I find poor practice."

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