On 8 March, Kevin Dunion, the Scottish Information Commissioner, published the third Annual Report on Freedom of Information. According to Mr Dunion freedom of information law in Scotland is "one of the strongest in the world" and there is "much to celebrate". However, Mr Dunion feels that there are still "significant areas for improvement". The Report makes interesting reading, noting that:
# Since the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 came into force two years ago, the Scottish Information Commissioner has received 1082 appeals (511 in 2006). Per head of the population, this is twice the number of applications received by the UK Information Commissioner during the same period;
# Public awareness of the FOI has increased from 47% in 2005 to 72% in 2006;
# 65% of appeals to the Scottish Information Commissioner are made by members of the public; 12% from the legal profession; 8% from the media and 6% from politicians;
# The number of decision notices issued last year doubled from 90 to 236. Of these, 22% found fully in favour of the applicant and 35% were partially in favour; and
# The Court of Session has upheld the Commissioner’s decisions in all the appeals it has considered so far.
While Mr Dunion considers that the "immediate task of successfully implementing the Freedom of Information Act has now been met", the real challenge to be faced is that of "converting from compliance to culture change". In that vein, Mr Dunion has indicated that he will commission research to determine whether public authorities are changing how they record, retain and publish information. No doubt next year we will hear the extent to which he considers that Scotland has moved from a "culture of secrecy" to that of a "culture of openness".