Access to information rights consultation: response

Scottish Government response to the analysis of responses our consultation on Access to Information Rights in Scotland. We sought views on the operation of the access to information rights regime following post-legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

4. Improving proactive publication – promoting openness as 'business as usual' in a digital age

44. The third section of the consultation asked a series of questions designed to test respondents' views on how well proactive publication requirements are working under the current regime. It also specifically sought respondents' views on the Commissioner's proposal that the current statutory requirement for Scottish public authorities to maintain a publication scheme should be replaced by a statutory duty to proactively publish information supported by a Code of Practice set by the Commissioner subject to approval by the Scottish Parliament.

Views of respondents

45. There was a general view among respondents that there is scope for improvement to approaches taken by Scottish public authorities to proactive publication, but mixed views on how to best advance that improvement.

46. There was openness on the part of most respondents to the proposed legislative change advocated by the Scottish Information Commissioner – to replace the existing statutory requirement for each Scottish public authority to maintain a publication scheme with a statutory duty to proactively publish information, supported by a Code of Practice. However, some respondents had concerns about the workability of the approach. Some respondents suggested alternative approaches.

47. There were mixed perspectives among respondents regarding how satisfied they were with the current availability of information about government and public services in Scotland. Overall, more respondents said they were 'satisfied' than 'dissatisfied'.

48. Respondents provided various perspectives on the types of information they would wish to see authorities proactively making available. The most frequently mentioned was financial/budgetary information. Data/statistical information, information about services, information about/underpinning decisions and policies, performance information, information about contracts, information about people involved in services and their interests, diversity data, demographic data, major projects or other high impact issues were also mentioned by respondents as areas where they would wish to see proactive publication.

Scottish Government response

49. The Scottish Government remains open minded in the long term to the Commissioner's suggestion of replacing the requirement to maintain a publication scheme with a statutory duty to proactively publish information, supported by a Code of Practice to be set by the Commissioner. However, we continue to have some concerns about the workability of such an approach.

50. We also consider that the existing statutory regime has some key strengths – which include the latitude it provides to the Commissioner to define and enforce good practice on the part of Scottish public authorities.

51. The Scottish Government acknowledges that there is scope to improve approaches to proactive publication within the existing statutory framework.

52. However, there are also already significant workstreams in flow across government and the wider public sector in Scotland to improve the quantity and quality of information made available about the work of Scottish public authorities.

Existing Scottish Government commitments and workstreams

53. The Scottish Government is engaged in work on a number of fronts to improve the accessibility and transparency of its information. Significant initiatives are being taken forward as part of Scotland's membership of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), an international agreement that commits members to collaborate with civil society to agree Action Plans that improve government's openness, transparency and accountability.

54. Since joining OGP in 2016, Scotland has completed two Action Plans and is currently delivering its third, for the period 2021-25. Previous Action Plans (2016-2017, 2018-2020) have included commitments on financial and performance transparency, and improving information sharing. This included work with young people on understanding Scotland's public finances, making the Scottish Budget more accessible, and improving information sharing about Scottish Government procurement.

55. Scotland's latest Open Government National Action Plan 2021-2005[4] includes commitments in relation to:

  • Fiscal openness and transparency – improving the accessibility and usability of our data and information about the public finances.
  • Supporting government openness, transparency and empowerment through open data

56. In addition, as part of the work to embed Open Government principles in Scottish Government there is work underway to ensure the governance and decision making structures of the government consistently follows recognised, open government good practices

57. Full information on each Action Plan is available on the Scottish Government's Open Government collections page[5].

Building on existing Scottish Government commitments

58. The Scottish Government will continue to work with its partners, including the Scottish Information Commissioner, civil society and the wider public sector in Scotland to build on our existing commitments. We recognise the importance of ensuring not only that information is published, but that citizens are enabled to find and make use of that information.



Back to top