Advice for in-house lawyers on FOI in Scotland

Now is the time for in-house lawyers in public authorities to take stock of their organisation's FOI compliance record to date by carrying out an internal audit.

The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act has been in force for six months and all staff should be asked the following questions:
  • Are deadlines being met?
  • Do staff know what is required of them under FOI?
  • Are your employer's procedures sufficiently comprehensive?
  • Have you had to withhold information?
  • How easy was it to determine what information should be withheld?
  • Have you carried out internal reviews or reworded confidentiality clauses?
The advice, provided by Hazel Moffat, states that public authorities should be able to identify difficult issues at an early stage which will allow them to make referrals to external legal advisers who can "provide specialist input on complex FOI requests, and can, in particular, help to demonstrate the independence and impartiality of an internal review process. " Hazel Moffat is an associate with external legal advisers Shepherd + Wedderburn.

Take action now to weather FOI storm (The Scotsman, 14 June 2005)