Scottish Government criticised over Covid FOI record

The Scottish Government has come under fire from the country's Freedom of Information watchdog, after its performance plummeted during the Covid pandemic.

Thursday, 10th September 2020, 11:19 am
Updated Thursday, 10th September 2020, 11:21 am
The Scottish Government has been criticised

The number of requests which received a response within the 20 day limit plunged by more than a third, according to Scottish Information Commissioner Daren Fitzhenry.

Ministers are now being urged to take urgent action to address the slide.

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“While some disruption from the Covid-19 pandemic is to be expected, the extent and speed of the Scottish Government’s recent decline raises real concerns about the long-term sustainability of its FOI improvement work," he said.

"I would urge Ministers to direct immediate attention towards this work to ensure that the recent improvements are safeguarded and protected.

“Failing to take action at this time will send a dangerous message to staff and the wider public about the perceived importance of openness, transparency and accountability through FOI, at a time when the public benefit arising from these characteristics has never been clearer.”

The watchdog has today published a report on the progress made by the Scottish Government on improving its performance when responding to freedom of information (FOI) requests. The report is published as part of the Commissioner’s ongoing intervention, launched in 2017, to improve the Scottish Government’s performance in this area.

It finds that significant progress towards delivering FOI improvement between April 2019 and March 2020, was not sustained in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over this period, the proportion of FOI requests responded to within the legal time limit of 20 working days fell from 95% to 58% between March and May 2020. Measures put in place to improve FOI performance have been significantly disrupted as the Scottish Government responded to the pandemic.

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