Drop in number of Scottish FoI appeals

Archivist Jennifer Birnie at the National Archives of Scotland. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Archivist Jennifer Birnie at the National Archives of Scotland. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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THE number of freedom of information (FoI) appeals made because public authorities failed to respond to the applicant has fallen.

Figures released by the Scottish Information Commissioner show a drop in the total number of appeals made by people dissatisfied with the handling of their FoI request, from 594 in 2012/13 to 578 the following year.

It is the first time in five years the number of appeals has fallen.

The drop is attributed to a decrease in appeals made because an authority failed to respond to a request within the statutory 20-day time limit, from 27 per cent in 2012/13 to 24 per cent.

Commissioner Rosemary Agnew said: “It is encouraging to see that the number of appeals being made because of a failure to respond has fallen.

“It was also good news to discover that failing to respond is not widespread, but acute in only a small proportion of Scottish public authorities.

“There is clearly more work to be done to bring the poorer-performing organisations up to the same standard as those doing well, but these early indications of improvement are encouraging.

“Everyone who makes an FoI request in Scotland should be confident that they will get a response within 20 working days.

“We know from our own experience that the information requested through FoI is often time-sensitive, concerning current issues.

“We see the information disclosed go on to be used in a variety of ways, supporting communities, informing debate and enhancing democratic engagement.

“Every public authority should ensure that it has the systems in place to respond promptly and accurately to every information request it receives.”

Scottish public authorities received more than 60,000 FoI requests in 2013/14, according to the commissioner’s annual report.

The vast majority of appeals (62 per cent) were from members of the public, with the media accounting for 14 per cent and prisoners 8 per cent.

The commissioner found wholly or partly in favour of the requester in 67 per cent of her decisions.