Scottish Information Commissioner slams Executive plans for FOI

Plans by ministers to restrict Scotland’s freedom of information legislation have been firmly rejected by the Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion.

The Sunday Herald reports: "In a stinging response to the Scottish Executive’s review of freedom of information legislation, the Scottish information commissioner has attacked plans to introduce upfront fees. They could end up with people being charged for wanting to know the opening times of libraries, he warned. Dunion was also critical of the idea of lumping together requests from MSPs, journalists and others in order to increase charges. Relaxing the deadlines by which public authorities have to respond to requests for information would be premature, he suggested."

Dunion has strongly defended the existing regulations on charging, which mean that in most cases information is provided free. The introduction of new fees would undermine the real advances made towards open government, he argued, and such a fee would deter members of the public from exercising their right to ask questions.

He warned that aggregating requests from individuals could have “significant disadvantages” and “unintended consequences”. MSPs, charities and journalists could face large fees if different requests to large organisations like the Executive were combined. The Executive is expected to publish a report on the consultation in June.

Information tsar slams Executive plans to charge for freedom of information (Sunday Herald, 9 April 2006)

The Commissioner’s response to the Scottish Executive consultation – FOI one year on (which closes on 31 March 2006) is available to download from the Commissioner's website as a pdf file (64KB):