Scottish FOI office gets double the expected number of appeals

The Scottish Information Commissioner told the annual seminar of the Society of Editors (Scotland) that his office has received over double the anticipated number of FOI appeals: "We were projecting more than 500 appeals over the first year - there have been 380 appeals to date."

The Commissioner said that people's awareness of their rights has been massively transformed with around fifty per cent of the appeals coming from ordinary members of the public.

Other groups using the FOI Act include solicitors acting on behalf of their clients, with only 8% of appeals coming from the press.

Tim Ellis, head of the Freedom of Information Unit at the Scottish Executive, said it was too early to make a definitive judgement about the effectiveness of the legislation: "There have been approximately 1,400 Freedom of Information requests since 1 January ... Approximately 60 per cent of requests to the Executive have come from the media - 54 different journalists have put in requests from 30 different newspapers. To that extent it's clear that the Freedom of Information Act has been a success."

Charles McGhee, editor of the Glasgow Evening Times, said the legislation had proved to be extremely important for journalists as they sought to get to the truth. But he also told the seminar that the legislation had not been without its problems: his newspaper's first request under the FOI Act was delayed after Greater Glasgow NHS Board said it had not received its request, concerning a board meeting about a hospital threatened with closure. The board took the full 20 days to respond to the re-submitted application and then heavily censored its response. McGhee said "Just one paragraph survived the censorship. It took two-and-a-half months to get the report — about the ‘Queen Mum's' maternity hospital — in the Evening Times."

Scottish FoI office receives double the expected appeals (Press Gazette, 15 September 2005)