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Scots law gets lead role in Jimmy Carter information freedom study Scottish role in Jimmy Carter freedom of information research

SCOTLAND'S Freedom of Information Act is to be scrutinised as part of research being carried out by the human rights body set up by former US president Jimmy Carter.

The Jimmy Carter Centre wants to assess the effectiveness of the act and how the Scottish Government in particular responds to it.

Carter has written to Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond to ask the Scottish Government to take part in the study. The centre will work with Scotland's first Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion, who is now executive director of the Centre for Freedom of Information at the University of Dundee, on the research which will then be available to governments and public bodies worldwide.

Dunion told the Sunday Herald: "The Carter Centre, which has been working on the issue of freedom of information for many years, is developing an implementation assessment tool.

"The idea is that this is a matrix that governments reviewing the functionality of the freedom of information laws and procedures, or governments who are implementing new laws, can use to carry out a kind of internal audit or assessment of how well they're doing.

"Scotland is recognised as having an effective and effectively implemented freedom of information law, and they have a mix of countries taking part.

"The intention is there will be meetings with officials in the Scottish Government and discussions with people in civil society, journalists, and the Information Commissioner.

"The Carter Centre are not looking to say is it a good law or what information people are getting, they're focusing on the mechanics, because there is a lot of evidence that there are some very highly praised laws out there which simply don't work in practice. Scotland has a good law and it works in practice."

The quality of public information and access to it varies wildly across the globe, and the hope is the results of the research, which will be concluded by the end of March, will improve the process across the world.

Dunion added: "There are 93 countries with a freedom of information act -There's some discussions that some countries perform well when you see their law in a league table, but everybody's experience tells us that this is out of all proportion to what happens on the ground.''

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: "We are delighted that Scotland's world-leading credentials when it comes to freedom of information and open government have been recognised by no less an authority than President Carter, and we will be happy to provide information to help with this assessment.

"Scotland already has the most robust and comprehensive FOI regime in the whole of the UK and the Carter Centre has noted that it is also well respected internationally."

by EWAN FERGUS

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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