Scottish Executive criticised for FOI refusals

The Scottish Executive has been criticised for blocking more than a third of the Freedom of Information requests made to it and has been accused of acting against the spirit of its own legislation.

New figures published by the Executive show a total of 1116 requests have been made to it since the Freedom of Information Act came into effect, but 407 of these have been refused in whole or in part.

Reasons given for withholding information range from excessive cost to commercial interests and the likelihood that disclosure would "prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs". The Scottish Nationalist business manager, Tricia Marwick, has accused the Executive of looking for reasons to refuse the release of information rather than adhering to the intention of the Act. Liberal Democrat Donald Gorrie has called for MSPs to scrutinise the reasons given by the Executive for rejecting requests, stating that the high proportion of refusals was sufficient grounds for a committee of the parliament to take a closer look at the Act.

A spokesperson for the Executive said every request for information that it has received has been dealt with in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act: "While we try to make information available wherever possible, there are instances when the information is withheld as being exempt."

Anger over refusal of Information Act requests (The Scotsman, 12 July 2005)