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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Mar > Mar 9

Finally Free To Throw Open The Files

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Fri, 09 Mar 2007 07:53:55 -0500
Fwd Date: Fri, 09 Mar 2007 07:53:55 -0500
Subject: Finally Free To Throw Open The Files

Source: The Glasgow Herald - Scotland


March 07 2007

Finally Free To Throw Open The Files
Katrina Tweedie

So now we know the truth. Dolphins were intended to be used in
the search for the Loch Ness monster, West Kilbride has the most
UFO sightings in Scotland and there are exactly seven zebra
crossings in Glasgow.

Trivia, you might think. But if knowledge is power, then the
ordinary person in Scotland is a lot more powerful than they
were even two years ago.

There is no doubt that Freedom of Information - the act which
was brought into Scottish law more than two years ago - has been
a success in a largely unforseen way.

For every media story about the brand of wine in Jack
McConnell's cellar; David McLetchie's taxis; the Thatcher
government's bizarre plan to see if Nessie was real; or the
RAF's log of UFO sightings, however, there have been dozens more
requests from ordinary members of the public.

Why has my child been denied access to his local school? Who
ordered the yellow lines to be painted outside my home? What is
the cost of closing our local clinic? These are the sort of
questions which now have answers thanks to freedom of

In his annual report, Kevin Dunion, the Scottish Information
Commissioner (SIC), makes the point that ordinary members of the
public now comprise the largest group requesting information,
followed by the legal profession at 12%, and the media and
politicians, who account for 6% of requests.

Indeed, 65% of appeals to Dunion's office in the past year have
been from members of the public - a rise of 10%. While two-
thirds of requests for information under the law were from
journalists in the first few months following the Act, that has
now dropped to 8%.

Public awareness of our right to access the information that
affects us has risen from less than 50% in 2005 to 72%, and
resulted in the increase in requests.

Of the thousands of Scots who made valid requests for
information to public authorities, 511 appealed to the SIC in
the last year.

The appeals covered a range of subjects including health, crime,
housing, planning, employment and education.

The commissioner has ruled in favour of the local authority in
108 cases and in favour of the applicant in 144 cases. The
remaining applications were either invalid on technicalities or

Yes, many requests are still turned down, but the information
being made available means that public bodies are becoming
increasingly accountable. When parents in Glasgow were unhappy
about the closure of Simshill School in Cathcart, a freedom of
information request meant they could find out that every parent
who had been consulted on the plan was opposed to it. They are
not alone. Here, we speak to three ordinary people about out how
the Act has worked for them.


A user's guide to the FOI

The Freedom of Information Act 2002 gives you legal rights to
see information held by all public-funded bodies and other
organisations that provide services for them.

All you have to do is ask for the information - you don't have
to say why you want it.

You have the right to see paper files, reports, e-mails,
computer documents, microfiche, video and other forms of

All Scottish public authorities now have a duty to advise and
assist the public when they make requests for information - and
they must provide the information within 20 working days.

Say you are requesting the information under the FOI Act. It
speeds the process along because many organisations now have FOI
officers to handle inquiries.

No official documents need to be filled in and you have only to
e-mail, phone or write requesting the information.

Some information can still be held back for good reasons - but
you should be given those reasons, such as notes from a court
case, information that could damage a person or putting people
in danger.

Most requests are dealt with free of charge, but if it is going
to cost up to =A3600, you get the first =A3100 free then have to pay
10% of the cost. If your request will cost more than =A3600, the
authority can refuse or can charge you the full cost.

In the case of a refusal, you need to ask for a review of the
decision before you can appeal to the Scottish Information
Commissioner, which must be done within 40 days of the
authorities' decision.

The commissioner weighs up a case and issues a decision in
favour of the applicant or authority, normally within four

A request to the commissioner must be made in writing giving
your name, address, details of your original request and why you
are unhappy with the response.

# If the Commissioner decides the authority has failed to follow
the Act, he will issue a formal notice setting out the steps the
authority needs to take.

If it fails, the commissioner can inform the Court of Session,
which could result in the authority being fined.

Requests for information numbered over 20,000 in the first year
to local authorities, the Scottish Executive, police forces, NHS
boards, universities, prisons, the Scottish Arts Council and
various other public bodies.

For more info go to:


[Thanks to Stuart Miller of http://uforeview.net/ for the lead on
this and the previous post]

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