Freedom of information (FOI) improvement plan 2022-23

The Minister for Parliamentary Business made a commitment to continuing the improvement process when he wrote to the Scottish Information Commissioner in May 2022.

The plan is structured around the six areas for progress identified by the Scottish Information Commissioner in his third progress report on the Intervention into FOI performance in Scottish Government.

Clearance procedures

Objective: Review the current case-handling process with officials and special advisers. Give particular focus to gaps between agreed procedures and organisational practice, including improvements in process on getting special advisers’ input to sensitive (for Ministerial decision) cases.

Actions to deliver:

  • consultation process on the current process to identify challenges and bottlenecks, leading to an action plan to deliver required adjustments and improve timeliness and the documentation of the process

Timeline: Case-handling action plan agreed by October 2022.

  • continuation of current work to reduce the numbers of cases being sent to special advisors unnecessarily and improve compliance with the decision-making criteria

Timeline: Supplementary guidance for case-handlers on implementing the decision making criterial and the role of special advisers to be implemented by August 2022.

Objective: Update the case-handling process, and associated training and guidance, informed by the outcome of the case-handling process review.

Actions to deliver:

  • update the current suite of guidance for case-handlers and improve its accessibility

Timeline: Redevelopment of guidance already underway.

  • review current training programmes against case-handler requirements and in light of updated online learning options

Timeline: Project timeline to be developed in tandem with case-handling action plan.

  • using the updated online learning platform, enforce mandatory annual FOI learning for all SG staff

Objective: Continue to invest in the experience and expertise of the FOI Unit to enable it to steer, shape and support good practice and develop a retention of expertise in the Scottish Government system.

Actions to deliver: 

  • review structure and operations of the FOI Unit to enable the delivery of the commitments in this improvement plan

Timeline: Review to be completed by July 2022.

Quality assurance

Objective:  Reintroduce reporting on learning from FOI reviews and appeals and share widely across the organisation

Actions to deliver:

  • plan already developed and preparation for delivery underway

Timeline: From July 2022.

Case file records management

Objective: Deliver a project to improve FOI record-keeping practices across the Scottish Government, with particular focus on recording special adviser advice, the rationale for any ministerial decisions and the reasons for any divergence from FOI Unit advice.

Actions to deliver:

Project to include:
  • engagement with case handlers, decision makers and special advisers on current approach

Timeline: Within timeframe for case-handling review.

  • liaison with records management project to share materials and learning, and to identify scope to capitalise from that initiative

Timeline: From June 2022.

  • development of options to track improvement and compliance with case file records management
  • communications and guidance plan to support improved records management practices

Timeline: An initial campaign to be launched by September 2022, with further iterations as necessary.

Case handling

Objective: Establish a sustainable case-handling model for Scottish Government which provides a network of skilled case-handlers which is fit for purpose, resilient and responsive to the increasing volume and complexity of SG’s cases.

Actions to deliver:

  • building on experience during the previous improvement project, explore potential resourcing models, including their potential to deliver surge capacity

Timeline: Within time-frame of case-handling review.

  • consult Directorates on current resourcing models and potential improvements
  • implement a solution(s) that works for the organisation, including restoring an active network of case-handlers

Objective: Building on the current allocations process improvements, establish an allocations policy and process to determine how cases will be allocated, within agreed time-scales, and in the event that there is not a clear lead business area to respond to the request.

Actions to deliver:

  • develop in consultation with Directorates, and in parallel with discussions around case-handling model

Timeline: By October 2022.

Monitoring FOI requests

Objective: Extend (within the constraints of the then current case management system) the suite of reporting shared with the organisation to improve its ability to monitor performance.

Actions to deliver:

  • review current suite of reports and develop as necessary to best support improvement activity

Timeline: By September 2022.

  • routinely share monthly performance reports and other intelligence to improve the organisation’s capacity to deliver improvement, with Ministers and the Executive Team, DG Assurance Boards and Corporate Board

Timeline: Ongoing

Objective:  Significantly improve the alignment between the organisation’s record management requirements and its data handling systems.

Actions to deliver:

  • conduct an urgent review of the current case management system and how best to achieve the required alignment, including options to improve the current system to support delivery. Make recommendations including potential budget implications and possible time-frames.


  • review to commence in July 2022
  • recommendations to be agreed by October 2022

Compliance with timescales

Objective: Through delivering the improvements outlined above, return to regular FOI request responses rates of more than 90% in 2022, with a trajectory towards 95% or better, by 2023.

Actions to deliver:

  • support from the FOI Unit with cross-organisation and directorate-specific metrics, reminders of current case status and focused advice and support

Timeline: Ongoing.

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