Scottish Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion wants to open up these trusts, which at the moment can often escape detailed scrutiny.

He has also warned the era of open government is at a “significant crossroads” and public rights must be kept under review if they are to be protected.

He said: “There are still many chal­lenges to overcome. We have reason to believe that many groups are not being adequately made aware of their right and this new culture needs to be protected and nurtured if it is to flourish.”

Chief among these challenges, according to Mr Dunion, is the threat posed by councils or other public authorities to create trusts or other hands-off bodies to deliver services on their behalf, something which can sidestep the rules on FoI.

He said: “A key area of concern is the increasing practice of public authorities handing over the provision of certain public services to third parties, which can lead to the public instantly losing their right to information.

“The Scottish Government has recently announced its intention to extend the scope of FoI to cover more bodies.

“This is extremely welcome. Freedom of information needs to continually evolve to ensure it carries on working for the Scottish people.”

Five years ago today freedom of information legislation came into force and Mr Dunion, who has issued almost 900 rulings, believes it has been a success. “The impact of FoI over the past five years shouldn’t be underestimated,” he told The Herald.

“Prior to the introduction of freedom of information, Scottish public authorities frequently faced accusations of operating within a culture of secrecy, with information being released to requesters only on a need to know basis, and stories surfacing of people’s requests for information being ignored, or being refused without any explanation as to why.

“Since FoI came into force, however, there has been a dramatic shift from this position.

“Scotland’s public authori-

ties have, on the whole, embraced their FoI responsi-bilities, with the overwhelming majority of authorities responding fully and appropriately to the requests that they receive.”

But the commissioner added: “We’re now at a significant crossroads for FoI in Scotland. The FoI right has begun to bed in, and has been shown to be working effectively.

“We also know, however, that we have to keep the FoI right under review if it is to be protected.”

FoI requests have been used to pursue a range of individual and community interests, from campaigns against school ­closures, investigations into the cleanliness of hospital facilities, or enquiries about the funding and delivery of community resources, said Mr Dunion.

There has been a wider indirect impact in terms of the 10,000 public bodies in Scotland proactively releasing information as a matter of course, creating more transparent government and a more open society.

Over the past five years the Scottish Parliament has publish ed the expense details of MSPs, while Scotland also became the first country in the world to allow the public to see details of the mortality rates for individual surgeons.

However, the public is by far the biggest user of the FoI right and more information is being released to members of the public on a daily basis.

Crime statistics by area or street are now being released, while FoI has also been used to access information on the treatments for those with cancer in Scotland and or the quality of housing available for people with disabilities.