November 26th 2019 | COSLA Conference Centre

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Tuesday, 26 November, 2019


Registration, Exhibition and Refreshments



Chair's opening remarks

Henry McLeish, former First Minister of Scotland

Session 1 Post-legislative scrutiny - Future-proofing the Act

This session will focus on the Parliament’s post-legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, which will be coming to a close in December. Have the policy objectives of the Act been realised? What are the issues with the operation of FOI, and what role does FOI play in modern society and open government? 


Daren FitzhenryScottish Information Commissioner


Carole Ewart, Convener of the Campaign For Freedom of Information


Graeme Dey MSP, Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans, The Scottish Government



Keynote Session


 Will Moy, Chief Executive of Full Fact



Session 2 Masterclass Breakout Session 1

Following feedback from last year, we’ve added an extra masterclass. Delegates will have the choice of which three 30-minute workshops to attend (two before lunch and one after). In advance of the event, you will register for your preferred sessions to ensure these align with the key issues you want answers to. Two of the masterclasses are “solutions rooms”, which are more practical, participative opportunities for smaller groups to reflect on key challenges and work together to resolve them.

The masterclasses are:


Masterclass of choice num. 1


 Masterclass of choice num. 2


 Lunch & Networking



 Masterclass of choice num. 3

Find a list of available masterclasses here.

Session 3 Transparency & trust

All speakers will reflect on this question from various perspectives. In an age of big data, fake news, and diminishing trust in government, how do we ensure people still feel involved and represented in today’s democracy? How do we line up with other examples from abroad?


Do FOI and open government data work as anti-corruption policies?

Maria Zuffova, Ph.D. Candidate at the School of Government and Public Policy, University of Strathclyde and Researcher, Open Government 





Transparency in the age of fake news

Alastair Brian, Lead fact-checker, The Ferret Fact Service

The Ferret is an award-winning investigative journalism platform for Scotland and beyond. Alastair is the lead fact-checker for Ferret Fact Service and runs our fact-checking workshops across the country. His presentation will look at how to achieve transparency in the age of fake news.





Refreshments and Networking

Session 4 - The journey of a request

By breaking down the different stages of an information request, this session will give some insight into the different parts of the system and different characters that play such an important role in the FOI story. In the session will hear about why people make requests and what they do with that information. It will then move onto the authority side and explore some of the issues faced by authorities in handling requests


The Requester 

Patricia Anderson, Campaign Spokesperson & FOI User, GiveThemTime

Freedom of Information legislation has been absolutely pivotal for the Give Them Time Campaign - it has enabled us to verify parents' anecdotal accounts of the disparate processes used by local authorities to assess so-called "discretionary" deferral requests and the wide-ranging average approval rates of these across the country. Without this data, we would have been unable to challenge local and national policies as forcefully.


The Journalist ‚Äč

Rob Ewards, environmental journalist at The Ferret

In 2018/19 the media made up 7% of requesters appealing to the Commissioner, compared to 11% in the previous year. Rob is a regular user of FOI to conduct investigations and write stories for the media on controversial issues. He also contributed to a journalists’ letter in 2017 calling for action to be taken on the Scottish Government’s FOI performance. He will talk about the value of FOI for journalists and writers like him.




The FOI Officer 

 Paul Gibbons, consultant and trainer in information rights and information management at FOIMAN

Paul is a consultant and trainer in information rights and information management. He has been working in the field of information management for over 20 years and for much of this period, as FOI Officer in a number of public authorities. He has recently published ‘the FOI Officers Handbook’ and will use this session to share his experience of being an FOI officer.


The Authority

Alex Parsons, Research Associate at My Society 

Alex recently published papers about understanding FOI in local government, and central government, using data from WhatDoTheyKnow. The purpose was to establish how many FOI requests are actually received in local and central government in England. He will share his findings about how FOI is administered in local government in England, and what learnings there may be from this from authorities in Scotland.




Chair's Closing Remarks

Henry McLeish, former First Minister of Scotland


Close of conference