and get to heart of public affairs

The man brought in to police the Freedom of Information Act in Scotland believes journalists will be clamouring to get information from public bodies when it goes live in January.

Kevin Dunion, the Scottish Information Commissioner, told the Edinburgh conference that evidence from other countries with “right to know” legislation showed up to 15 per cent of freedom of information requests came from newspapers, TV and radio.

Dunion said: “The Freedom of Information Act is groundbreaking. It strikes at the heart of of a culture of secrecy in public affairs which dates back at least 90 years.”

Appointed by the Queen, Dunion has the power to ensure the public gets information they are entitled to, and to investigate reasons for refusal by public bodies if there is an appeal by press or public. “The information secured may be destined for headlines and generate heated public debate,” Dunion said.

“It may be that such headlines are overblown. Politicians may believe the intent is to politically embarrass them. Public officials may fear that financial or technical details will be misinterpreted.

“If they have such concerns then the answer is for them to provide a full justification, an official interpretation, and to place the information in context.

“From the 1 January 2005, the response can no longer be to ignore or refuse the request.”


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