SCOTLAND’S information watchdog has called for a review of the 16-year-old law behind freedom of information amid growing claims of non-compliance by public bodies.

Daren Fitzhenry also told MSPs he expected to issue a report on the Scottish Government’s FoI record, prompted by complaints from journalists, by the end of the May.

The Scottish Information Commissioner appeared at Holyrood’s public audit committee to discuss the operation of the 2002 Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act.

The law entitles people access to information held by most public bodies in Scotland, subject to a limited range of exemptions.

However MSPs heard concerns some public bodies are trying to get round the law through artificial delays, bogus exemptions and not recording information in the first place.

Political special advisers (SpAds) in the Scottish Government have also been accused of meddling in what should be a legally-driven process, with civil servants being ordered to delete emails with SpAds about FoI answers “immediately”.

The £600 cost ceiling on FoIs has not been uprated for inflation since the Act came into force, and would be £825 if it was.

Mr Fitzhenry said three-quarters of FoI requesters received all or some of the information they asked for, and appeal rates to his office were generally under 1 per cent of all cases.

He said: “We’ve got a system that is known about and is used. We’re not dealing with a system that is not delivering.

“Is there something that can improved in the system? I have no doubt about that.

“Would it be useful to have a review of the system? I think it certainly would.

“I think if we don’t look at the criticisms being levied and seek to improve the system, then the system will get worse and it will get out out touch.

“Being the regulator of that system, that’s not a position I would like the system to get into.

“Where the concerns have been raised, let’s look at them and deal with them.”

Mr Fitzhenry, who started his six-year term in October, is currently investigating the Scottish Government's FoI record after journalists highlighted lengthy delays, legal deadlines not being met, requests refused for "tenuous" reasons and being “screened" by SpAds.

He said the concerns were "obviously serious".

He said: "We anticipate that the main piece identifying what's wrong and what our recommendations would be to remedy that... by the end of May of this year.

"The next phase will depend upon how deep the problems we've found are, what our recommendations are and how long they will take to implement.

"We also expect a monitoring phase, what we are not wanting to do is to simply make the recommendation and walk away from this."

LibDem MSP Mike Rumbles said the government had shown little willingness to change.

He said: “I look forward to the findings of the Commissioner’s governance review in May and am hopeful that it will address the glaring issues with Sturgeon’s secret Scotland.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "The Scottish Government has been engaging with the Scottish Information Commissioner as part of the on-going intervention process aimed at improving FOI response times.

“As we have set out we will co-operate fully with the committee on its review of FoI legislation.”