Response to Scottish Information Commissioner report.
The Scottish Government will address the points identified in the Scottish Information Commissioner’s progress report into how the organisation handles Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.
The report examines progress of the Scottish Government’s FOI Action Plan and makes recommendations on case handling, case file management and monitoring of FOIs.
In his letter to the Commissioner, Minister for Parliamentary Business George Adam said:
“The Scottish Government is committed to openness and transparency and recognises that scrutiny is the bedrock that underlies effective governance. Freedom of Information handling plays a critical role in that.
“As this report recognises, the Covid pandemic had a significant impact on our FOI handling. Prior to the pandemic the Scottish Government met its target to respond to 95% of requests on time in seven of the eight months to March 2020. Responding to the pandemic necessitated an immediate redeployment of staff at an unprecedented scale within the Scottish Government.
“We have worked hard to restore turnaround times. Over the past two years response rates for requests issued within 20 working days have improved to around the average for Scottish public bodies, at 86%. We have, at the same time, responded to a steep increase in the volume of FOI requests - handling a record 4,200 requests last year - 25% more in 2021 than the previous year, the vast majority on time.
“Nevertheless we remain committed to further improvement, including achieving the target of answering 95% of requests on time. I welcome the Commissioner’s recommendations and we will develop our action plan to address the areas identified that require further work.”
The Scottish Government’s FOI Improvement Plan was published in 2018 in response to the Scottish Information Commissioner’s intervention in November 2017 to support improvement in its FOI practice.
The Scottish Parliament subsequently requested that the Commissioner publish annual progress reports; the last of which was published in September 2020. This latest report, which was delayed by the pandemic, covers a two-year period, from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2021.
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