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Last Updated: Monday, 10 March 2008, 01:02 GMT
Info requests centre on politics
Scottish Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion
Kevin Dunion is satisfied that the legislation is a "success story"
Ministers and councils have been the subject of almost two-thirds of requests to the Scottish Information Commissioner, a report has revealed.

The figures, contained in the commission's fourth annual report, show a total of 1,574 requests were lodged between 2005 and 2007.

Central government received 267 requests for information, with a total of 677 sent to local authorities.

Applications to government-linked public bodies were also significant.

There were a further 170 cases where people contacted the Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion, in a bid to get more information from the police.

The new rights have been actively used and have led to the disclosure of information which would not otherwise have been put into the public domain
Kevin Dunion
Information Commissioner

But Mr Dunion said he was surprised by the low numbers of requests for information from the health and education sectors.

Only 101 cases involved the national health service, including health boards, NHS 24 and individual medical practices, while just 46 cases involved universities and colleges.

"Whatever reason we need to understand better why appeals from these sectors are so low," he said.

However, he insisted that the Freedom of Information Act, introduced at the start of 2005, was "a success story" with the majority of applications - 77% - being lodged by the public.

A further 7% came from elected politicians, 6% were made by the media, 4% were from voluntary organisations or campaign groups and solicitors and private firms accounted for 3% each.

New rights

"The new rights have been actively used and have led to the disclosure of information which would not otherwise have been put into the public domain," he added.

"There is no doubt that at times the volume and nature of requests has been uncomfortable for public authorities - particularly it has to be said those from the media given the prominence and interpretation afforded to any story which eventually appears.

"However, to the great credit of those in government, changes to the legislation have not been brought forward which would hamper requests or extend exemptions, for example by charging up-front fees for requests, or creating new absolute exemptions for certain types of information."

Mr Dunion did raise concerns that where appeals were sent to the Court of Session - as happened in 4% of cases - the process could be "frustratingly long", lasting up to 15 months.

He also warned that people's rights under freedom of information could be curtailed as a result of the trend for public authorities to use private firms and charitable trusts to deliver services.

Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion

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