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Scottish Government Intervention 2023 Progress Report published

Commissioner's report calls for more work to be done to bring Scottish Government FOI improvement

12 October 2023

In his final report before stepping down as the Scottish Information Commissioner, Daren Fitzhenry has 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.

The report, which examines the Scottish Government’s FOI performance across two distinct periods of activity, found that a number of significant performance issues arose between July 2022 and March 2023.  However, the report also found evidence of a number of improvements in the period between May and September 2023, following the implementation of measures to address the Commissioner’s concern.  The Report also finds that more work is to be done if performance is to be sustained and further improved. 

Commenting on the findings, Scottish Information Commissioner Daren Fitzhenry said:

 “I had anticipated that my final report as Scottish Information Commissioner, would be to announce the successful conclusion of this intervention, but, unfortunately, the Scottish Government’s improvement activity has not yet reached a point where this work can be appropriately concluded.  

"I became concerned with a deterioration in FOI performance between 1 July 2022 to 31 March 2023, which I raised with the Permanent Secretary and senior officials.  In May 2023, the Scottish Government initiated urgent work to address my concerns. 

"While it is early days in the implementation of these measures, I am cautiously optimistic that a number of my concerns may now, at last, be being effectively tackled. 

"However, there remain a number of concerns which have not to date been fully addressed, for example, standards of compliance with internal records management procedures and the degree of FOI experience and expertise of those involved in the request-handling process. My report sets out in detail, key recommendations that are both retained from previous reports and expanded on for a further period of monitoring” 

  • The Commissioner's intervention to support improvement in the Scottish Government's FOI performance was launched in November 2017 in response to concerns raised in the Scottish Parliament and in a letter from journalists to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body.
  • In June 2018 the Commissioner published an Intervention Report detailing the findings from his initial investigations into the concerns raised, along with recommendations for improvements.
  • In response to the June 2018 report, the Scottish Government prepared a FOI Improvement Action Plan.
  • The Commissioner's May 2022 Progress Report considered progress made under that Action Plan to address the recommendations made in the June 2018 Intervention Report.
  • The Commissioner was asked by the Scottish Parliament to publish an annual report on the Scottish Government's progress in relation to the implementation of its Action Plan. 
  • The 2023 Progress Report examines performance against the recommendations made in the 2018 and 2022 reports. Although it was anticipated that the 2023 Progress Report would mark the conclusion of this intervention, there remain a number of concerns which are not to date being fully addressed. This report sets out in detail, key recommendations that are both retained from previous reports and expanded on for a further period of monitoring. 
  • Further information on the background to the intervention is available at www.itspublicknowledge.info/scottish-government-intervention.