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Scottish Parliament chooses new information commissioner

26/06/17

Daren Fitzhenry set to take on role following warnings from special report from predecessor

A senior legal officer in the RAF Legal Branch is on course to become the new Scottish information commissioner.

Daren FitzhenryMembers of the Scottish Parliament have been invited to nominate Daren Fitzhenry (pictured) for the appointment. They will consider the move next week before making the nomination to the Queen.

A statement from the Scottish Parliament said this sets Fitzhenry on course to take over from Rosemary Agnew, who stood down from the post in April. The position is for a six-year fixed term.

Fitzhenry currently leads the legal advisory team for the RAF Legal Branch, having joined the Air Force in 2000. Before that he was a solicitor in private practice, and has experience on the application of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, the implementation of regulatory systems and international agreements.

The role will involve some stiff challenges, which were thrown into focus by Agnew’s final report to the Scottish Parliament. She said there is a need for a change of approach in which public authorities make information accessible in real time without people having to ask for it.

Minimum effort

She claimed that a round of ‘mystery shopping’ by her office showed that some authorities were doing the minimum to meet the requirements of having publication schemes and making the necessary investment.

“This is a far cry from publishing information in the public interest in order to communicate effectively and achieve transparency,” she said. “My power to enforce publication duties are comparatively weak, and the public does not have a clear route to challenge authorities.

“A more equal status in law between an authority's duty to publish and its duty to respond would help address this.”

Agnew also said that FoI laws need to keep up with changes in technology and how people access and use information.

She has now moved on to the post of Scottish public services ombudsman.

Image from Scottish Parliament, Scottish Parliament Copyright Licence

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