Scottish Liberal Democrats have today revealed that Scottish ministers were ordered to release wrongly withheld information more than a dozen times last year by the Scottish Information Commissioner, as a freedom of information request disclosed that the Scottish Government topped the table for the organisation which had the most appeals upheld against it.
A Scottish Liberal Democrat freedom of information request exposed that between 14 Sept 2022 and 14 Sept 2023, the Scottish Government topped the table as the public authority which faced the highest number of appeals that resulted in the release of fresh information.
In May 2022, the Scottish Information Commissioner’s Report found that there were “a number of areas where performance and practice fell short” in the Scottish Government’s handling of FOI requests.
Willie Rennie MSP said:
“These figures show that the Scottish Government are frequent information offenders. The Information Commissioner should not be having to step in 13 times in just one year to order the release of information that should be public.
“Freedom of information laws have played a mighty role in holding government and public authorities to account and uncovered hosts of scandals.
“However as these laws have bedded in it has become apparent that loopholes remain which allow ministers to dodge scrutiny. Any campaigner who has used freedom of information laws knows that the government will act as opaquely and evasively as possible.
“Twenty years on from when Scottish Liberal Democrats first introduced freedom of information legislation, the time has come to ensure these laws are updated to reflect their original spirit.
“Our proposals would help to return transparency, integrity and fair practice back into our politics.”
Notes to editors:
Scottish Liberal Democrats are committed to strengthening Scotland’s access to information laws including:
• Freedom of information laws to be expanded to cover companies which provide government services, after firms receiving up to £700m of taxpayers’ money a year to run services have been exempt
• The introduction of a new “duty to record” so that the public can always access information about important ministerial meetings and decision-making processes
• An end to the Scottish Government placing adverse publicity clauses in public sector contracts, which prevent contactors from saying anything a minister deems detrimental to the public perception of the Scottish Government
• The Scottish Government to commit to international best practice by signing up to the Council of Europe’s Tromso Convention which provides a general right of access to official documents held by public authorities.
The most appealed against authorities were as follows: