Freedom of Information Act 'underused'

Scottish Information Commissioner launches website to help campaigners use legislation

The Scottish Information Commissioner has launched a new web service to help voluntary sector organisations make better use of the Freedom of Information Act in their campaigning work.

Kevin Dunion said that campaigning groups and voluntary organisations were not using the act, which requires public bodies to answer questions about their activities, as much as he had expected.

The new website will provide voluntary sector organisations with advice on using freedom of information laws as well as an inquiry service providing one-to-one support for third sector organisations wishing to request information under the act.

"I am concerned that rights under the act may be underused by the voluntary sector," said Dunion. "There is no doubt that freedom of information can be an extremely valuable resource and it is important to raise awareness of the legislation."

Dunion said he had expected the voluntary sector to be responsible for a higher number of appeals to the commission last year. In fact, it accounted for only 7 per cent of them.

"Often, the function of third sector organisations is to pose challenges to accepted government policy," he said. "I fear that smaller organisations could be holding back from exercising their rights in case it jeopardises their relationship with authorities."

A three-year research project involving the University of Strathclyde will examine the use of freedom of information legislation by Scotland's voluntary sector in greater detail.

The website can be accessed here.

Sarah Townsend recommends

Scottish Information Commissioner

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