FOI Practitioners’ Conference: Where next for FOI?

Wednesday 3 May 2017

Dalhousie Building, University of Dundee

Conference Presentations

GDPR Presentation - Christine O'Neill

Past Present Future - Rosemary Agnew

Seminar A - Free and frank discussion

Seminar B - Anonymisation

Seminar C - Proactive Publication

Seminar D - The ABC of FOI

The Magyar Ruling - Margaret Keyse

This year’s conference will consider the future direction of FOI and EIR law in Scotland, at a time when there are significant changes on the horizon.  The General Data Protection Regulation, which comes into force in 2018, will alter the way in which practitioners consider requests that involve personal data, while a European Court of Human Rights ruling may also require a fresh approach to the handling of certain types of request.  And there’s also change closer to home as Rosemary Agnew takes up post as Scottish Public Services Ombudsman from 1 May…

The Conference will feature Rosemary’s final address to Centre delegates, reflecting on her time as Commissioner.  There will also be an exploration of the future of FOI, with no less than three Scottish Information Commissioners taking part: two former and one acting Commissioner.

We also have the usual wide range of practical, practitioner-focussed workshops, with sessions exploring the “free and frank” exemptions, the anonymisation of personal data, proactive publication and advice on how to deliver better, more effective FOI.  

Conference Programme 2017

FOI Practitioners' Conference 2016


Wednesday 18 May 2016

Dalhousie Building, University of Dundee
9:30  Registration and refreshments 
10:00 - 10:30 Opening Session: News and Reflections from the Commissioner
  • The Commissioner will speak about what she sees as the main issues and opportunities for FOI practitioners
10:30 - 11:15 Proactive Publication: Results of the SIC's mystery shopper exercise
  • The announcement in February 2016 that the Commissioner's office was to use a mystery shopping approach to monitor the quality of authorities' Guides to Information caused a ripple in the FOI community. Proactive publication has long been promoted by the Commissioner as an effective way to manage FOI within an authority. Be the first to hear our findings and reflections about the experience from the company which carried out the mystery shopping exercise, Craigforth Ltd. 
  • A panel discussion to follow will consider: what we've learned, what the value of the exercise is, what do the findings mean, and what should happen next.
11:15 - 11:30 Refreshments 
11:30 - 13:00 Practical Seminars I (Select from list below)
13:00 - 13:45 Lunch 
13:45 - 15:15 Practical Seminars II (Select from list below)
15:15 Conference close 
A: If knowledge is power, knowledge shared is power multiplied?
  • Can working in FOI feel a bit isolating? Ever wish you could bounce ideas off other practitioners, or wondered how other sectors handle things? Join the Commissioner's office for the launch of a new FOI group on the knowledge sharing platform, Knowledge Hub.
  • Hear from the Programme Manager for Knowledge and Collaboration at The Improvement Service (which set up Knowledge Hub). Seize the opportunity to tell us how you would like us to use Knowledge Hub.
B: Lessons learned from decisions and practice 
  • As you will know, the Commissioner publishes a weekly Decisions Round-up. Hear what the most commonly encountered learning points are - they may not be what you think!
  • Experienced FOI practitioners will also speak about a recent review of FOI handling within their authority. Learn about how they conducted the review, what they discovered and how they are planning to make changes as a result.
C: What is the role of open data in proactive publication?
  • What is the role of the publication scheme in helping you to meet your FOI duty? What role can open data play? Why is it worth investing time in publication of information and open datasets when you constantly have requests waiting for you to respond to? This session will consider each of these points, reflecting on the panel discussion from the morning session, and will talk us through some of the barriers to proactive publication and how to overcome them.
D: It's nothing personal: knowing - and helping others within your authority know - when it's ok to disclose personal data
  • Whether you are relatively new to FOI or have been handling FOI requests for personal data for a long time, you will get something out of our quiz on disclosing personal data under the FOI Act. Of course, you will not be the only one in your authority who needs to be comfortable with these boundaries. An experienced FOI practitioner will share tips for how to increase understanding within your authority (especially for those who don't work with FOI on a daily basis) about what's ok to disclose and what's not.

For car parking available nearby the University, please use the following link.


CFOI Seminar List 2016
CFOI_2016 Programme


FOI Practitioners' Conference 2015

Tuesday 19 May 2015
Dalhousie Building
University of Dundee

9:30                Registration and refreshments 

10:00 - 11:00 Opening Seminar: The relationship                           between FOI and Openness (Lecture Theatre 2)

Reflections on developments in openness from:

  • Rosemary Agnew, Scottish Information Commissioner
  • Kevin Dunion, Executive Director, Centre for FOI
  • Howard Davies, Standards Manager, The National Archives
  • Speaker from Open Data Strategy (to be confirmed)

Followed by audience discussion.

11:00 - 11:15 Refreshments 

11:15 - 12:45 Practical Seminars I 

12:45 - 13:30 Lunch 

13:30 - 15:00 Practical Seminars II

15:00 Conference close




A: What every FOI practitioner needs to know about re-use

An introduction to the forthcoming revised Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005, the main changes and implementation timetable.

By the end of this seminar you will be familiar with the new provisions (machine-readable formats, charging and copyright issues) and how these changes may impact on your handling of FOI requests and the advice to requesters who want to re-use your authority's information.

B: FOI requests from journalists

Are media FOI requests "lazy, time-wasting, vexatious fishing expeditions"? Or are they just asking the questions authorities least want to answer? What is it about FOI requests from journalists that gets your goat? We hear from two senior communications specialists about ways to manage requests and, in the process, build better relationships.

C: Ten things FOI requesters hate most?

That's the title of a recent article by FOI Man. Do we recognise the behaviours he thinks are "guaranteed to aggravate" requesters? Of course, it?s not all one way: what are the ten things authorities hate most about FOI requests?  

How can we reduce the aggravation factor?

A practical hands-on workshop to extract the answers from the people who have them (the conference delegates)!

D: Managing FOI requests A-Z

Experienced FOI practitioners walk us through managing FOI requests from start to finish, sharing some hard-learned lessons along the way. This seminar is suitable for all delegates, but particularly those who are just starting out or feel the need for some confidence-building. It's a great opportunity to ask all those questions you've never dared to air!

E: How to avoid an FOI crisis (and what you can do when it happens)

How can you make sure your authority is a strong FOI performer? Learn about FOI governance arrangements, making the connections with records management and customer service. How can you test your resilience? 

And what can you do when things go wrong? Hear about authorities that have managed crises and what they did to build their performance and reputation.


Programme 2015

seminars 2015

Booking Form 2015

Centre for Freedom of Information European Conference


We are pleased to announce that the Centre for Freedom of Information European Conference will take place in the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel, Edinburgh on 4 November 2014, and invite you to register.

The conference will address the challenges for practitioners interpreting and implementing access to information laws which derive from European legislation, such as the Environmental Information Regulations and the revised Re-use of Public Sector Information Directive.

We have attracted speakers with a truly informed insight, as the attached conference programme shows.  Anya Proops recently acted for the UK Information Commissioner at the European Court of Justice on whether water companies in England are subject to the EC Directive on access to environmental information.  She will discuss the potential implications of the Court's ruling for any commercial body providing public services.  The broad definition of environmental information, will be discussed by Sue Wolf, co-author of Wolf and Stanley on Environmental Law.

The outsourcing of the public service delivery to trusts, charities and private contractors presents particular challenges when determining who must provide information.  Jeremy Wates, formerly Secretary to the Aarhus Convention, which underpins the environmental information directive and laws, will remind us of what was expected, whilst Professor Richard Kerley will outline the extent to which the nature of public services is changing.

Later in the day the issue of proactive disclosure and sharing of information will come under the spotlight.  From 2015 the revised Directive of Re-use of Public Sector Information will apply to museums, archives and libraries.  More generally the right to re-use public information for commercial as well as non-commercial purposes is being strengthened.  Carol Tullo of the National Archives, (which will deal with appeals against refusals to provide information requested) will set out what this means for public authorities in practice.

The value of sharing data derived from personal information, such as health records, has come under scrutiny in the UK recently.  Professor Sarah Cunningham-Burley will share the findings of her research into Public Acceptability of Data-Sharing between the Public and Private Sector, which she conducted for the Scottish Government.

A special feature of this conference will be the presence of Information Commissioners from across Europe, several of whom will provide snapshot insights into how some of these issues are being addressed in their countries.

This is a truly unique event which should be of wide interest to those with responsibilities for freedom of information, data protection, legal advice, planning, libraries and archives, and information management.  It should also be of particular interest to those delivering or letting contracts for out-sourced public services.  Early booking is advised.

To register please click here to book on-line via our University e-store electronic payment system (preferred), or complete and return the registration form below.

If you have any queries please contact us at


European Conference_Agenda 2014



FOI Practitioners' Conference


Wednesday 21 May 2014

Dalhousie Building

University of Dundee



9:00        Registration and refreshments


9:30        Opening seminar: FOI in a Changing World


11:00     Refreshments


11.25     Practical Seminars l (select from list below)


13:00     Lunch


14:00     Practical Seminars ll (select from list below)


15:30     Refreshments


15:50     Plenary, evaluation and future events


16:30     Conference close


Practical Seminars

Participants are invited to select two seminars to attend during the day.

Practical Seminar A: Defining environmental information

In response to your feedback from last year's conference, this seminar will:

  • explain why the EIRs are different to FOISA
  • explore the definition of 'environmental information' through practical case studies
  • increase confidence in identifying requests that should be responded to under the EIRs
  • increase your familiarity with the resources available to help with requests for environmental information.

Practical Seminar B: Searching for information

This seminar will:


  • Increase understanding of the relationship between FOI law and public records legislation.
  • Promote the value of a positive relationship between FOI officers and records managers
  • Provide practical advice about making searches effective in your own authority and about holding colleagues to account for the results they provide.


Participants will be encouraged to develop a search form for use by their own authorities.

Practical Seminar C: Managing complex and challenging requests

This seminar will:

  • Increase awareness of different approaches to managing requests
  • Provide practical tips to help you manage complex and challenging requests made to your own authority.


Practical Seminar D: Engaging your manager

This seminar will:

  • Explore the role of senior managers in meeting FOI responsibilities
  • Promote the importance and relevance of FOI performance management
  • Promote good practice in review handling
  • Provide practical tips for engaging your managers in the FOI function.











Burdens or Benefits: New developments in


The Centre for Freedom of Information and the Centre for Archives and Information Studies, are pleased to invite you to our joint conference which features for the first time at the same event contributions from the Christopher Graham, UK Information Commissioner, Rosemary Agnew, Scottish Information Commissioner and Tim Ellis, the new Chief Executive of the National Records of Scotland. They will address key issues emerging from changes in legislation affecting data protection, freedom of information and records management. 

Practical experience and case studies will deal with the challenge of compliance and what happens where things go wrong, with insights from practitioners such as Dr Andrew Russell, Medical Director, NHS Tayside and Susan Graham of Edinburgh University.

And how well does your organisation make use of  social media? Euan Semple  author of Organizations Don't Tweet, People Do: A Manager's Guide to the Social Web and inspirational speaker will give a keynote talk on how to successfully make social media part of your organisational culture.

This is an essential event for practitioners concerned with the changing regulatory and operational environments impacting on personal information and data protection; managing information and records, and complying with freedom of information requests.

The full programme and booking form are available below.

Alternatively, you can click here to book online via our University E-store electronic payment system.

Registration should be made by 30 September.

Centre for FOI Freedom of Information Pr


A full day event, packed with practical learning and networking opportunities for Scottish public authority staff who receive and respond to freedom of information requests.

On the programme:

    Current developments, including changes to legislation

    Getting information requests right first time

    Responding to challenging requests

    Publishing information proactively

    Balancing rights to information with privacy rights.

Speakers include:

     Rosemary Agnew, Scottish Information Commissioner

    Sam Baker, Head of FOI Unit, Scottish Government

    Kevin Dunion, Executive Director of the Centre for FOI

When: Thursday 27 June 2013, 09:00 - 16:30

Where: Dalhousie Building, University of Dundee, Old Hawkhill, Dundee, DD1 4HB

Cost: 75 Pounds

Video presentations are now available from this conference.  They can be viewed here.










 30th May 2012

 Lecture Theatre 1, Dalhousie Building, University of Dundee

1.00 pm (buffet Lunch)

2.00 ? 4.00 pm (Refreshments to 4.30pm)




    Professor Alan Page, Co-Director, Centre for Freedom of Information


    Welcome and general introduction from the Chair


    Dr Ben Worthy, Research Associate, The Constitution Unit, University College London


    The impact of FOI in the UK


    Ibrahim Hasan, Director, Act Now Training


    The FOIA Review


    Christine O?Neill, Partner, Brodies LLP


    What about Scotland?


    Rosemary Agnew, Scottish Information Commissioner


    A word from the Commissioner


    Round up and closing remarks


If you would like to attend please download the booking form by clicking on the pdf below and email to by Friday 25th May 2012.

Alternatively, you can click here to book online via our University E-store electronic payment system.


2012 Programme_30_May_2012_full


Current Developments in FOI



    Professor Alan Page, Dean of the School of Law, Professor of Public Law and Centre Co-Director

    Welcome and general introduction from the Chair

    Kevin Dunion, Scottish Information Commissioner’s valedictory lecture to the Centre, reflecting on the key themes of his Special Report to the Scottish Parliament

    Freedom of Information in Scotland: a position of strength, but scope for improvement?

    Panel responses to the presentation. Panel includes: Karen Williams (Grampian Police and ACPOS),  Rosalind McInnes (Principal Solicitor, BBC Scotland) 

    Followed by audience discussion

If you would like to attend please download the booking form by clicking on the pdf below and email to by Friday 17th February 2012.

Alternatively, you can click here to book online.



Freedom of Information: FOI Appeal Route


19th October 2011

Lecture Theatre 1, Dalhousie Building, University of Dundee

1.00 pm (buffet Lunch)

2.00 - 4.00 pm (Refreshments to 4.30pm)


    Co-Director, Centre for Freedom of Information


    Welcome and general introduction from the Chair


    Professor John Angel, Principal Judge of the First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights)


    Appeals under the UK Act ? the view from the Tribunal


    Christine O?Neill, Partner, Brodies LLP


    Reflections on the Scottish model


    Rob Edwards, environment correspondent, Sunday Herald


    FOI Appeals: the requester?s perspective


    Panel discussion followed by a round up and closing remarks


If you would like to attend please download the booking form by clicking on the pdf below and email to by Wednesday 12th October 2011.






Current Developments in FoI



Lecture Theatre 2, Dalhousie Building, University of Dundee

1.00 pm (buffet Lunch)

2.00 - 4.00 pm (Refreshments to 4.30pm)



    Professor Alan Page, Co-Director, Centre for Freedom of Information


    Welcome and general introduction from the Chair


    Fiona Killen, Head of Parliamentary and Public Law Unit, Anderson Strathern


    Current developments in freedom of information


    Hugh Hagan, Senior Public Records Officer, The National Records of Scotland


    The Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011 ? implications for FOI


    Dr Will Dinan, Lecturer, and Kate Spence, PhD Student, University of Strathclyde


    Scottish Civil Society and FOI: licence, leverage and lessons


    Panel discussion followed by round up and closing remarks


If you would like to attend please download the booking form by clicking on the pdf below and email to by Wednesday 31st August 2011.

Alternatively, you can Click Here to book on line via our University E-Store electronic payment system.







Dealing with Vexatious Requests (NEW!)


Lecture Theatre 4, Dalhousie Building, University of Dundee

1.00 pm (buffet lunch)

2.00-4.00  pm (refreshments to 4.30pm)


    Kevin Dunion, Scottish Information Commissioner

    Welcome and general introduction from the Chair

    Eugene Creally, Advocate

    What is ‘Vexatious’ – the legal perspectives

    Eugene will share his thoughts on the various legal perspectives of ‘vexatiousness’ in civil litigation. What does it mean in the wider context, and how does its specific meaning within FOISA compare? 

    Maurice Frankel, Director, Campaign for FOI

    Vexatious requests – reflecting on the Commissioner’s decisions

    Maurice is travelling up from England to share his thoughts on the Commissioner’s decisions which relate to section 14 of FOISA, ‘Vexatious or repeated requests’

    Valerie Malloch, Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

    Dealing with challenging behaviour in the complaints process

    The SPSO has undertaken body of work looking at how to deal with difficult behaviour in the complaints process.  Valerie will share their current thinking, provide some practical thoughts for discussion, and look at where FOI fits into this bigger picture.

Round up and closing remarks:

Chair, Kevin Dunion, Scottish Information Commissioner

If you would like to attend please download the booking form by clicking on the pdf below and email to by Wednesday 10th November 2010.






New Developments in Freedom of Information


Dalhousie Building, University of Dundee

1.00 pm (buffet lunch)

2.00-4.05  pm (refreshments to 4.30pm)


    Professor Alan Page, Dean of the School of Law, University of Dundee

    Introduction and Centre Update

    Zoe Woods, Head of FOI Unit, Scottish Government

    Adjusting the Regime – Developments in FOI Policy

    An overview of the current policy priorities for the Scottish Government, including the revision of the FOI codes of practice, plans for records management legislation, and the consultation to extend FOI.

    Daradjeet Jagpal, Solicitor, Harper MacLeod

    Assessing the scope of EIR’s

    An exploration of the tests to establish whether a body which is not presently subject to FOI – such as a housing association, utility company or arms-length trust - will nevertheless fall within the scope of the EIRs.

    William Malcolm, Senior Associate, Pinsent Masons

    Developing Practice - Learning from FOI Appeals

    Reflection of the key learning points emerging for Scottish public authorities from certain selected FOI appeal rulings in the Courts and Information Tribunal.

Closing remarks:

Professor Alan Page, Co-Director, Centre for Freedom of Information and Dean, School of Law

If you would like to attend please download the booking form by clicking on the pdf below and email to by Thursday 14th October 2010.





Freedom of Information: The USA Experience


The Symposium Hall, Surgeon's Hall, The Royal College of Surgeons, Nicolson Street, Edinburgh EH8 9DW
5.30 pm – 9.00 pm (drinks reception at 8pm) ?


  • Professor Janet McLean, School of Law, University of Dundee
    Introduction and Overview

Keynote address:

  • Professor Dan Metcalfe, Washington College of Law
    'Lessons from America'
  • Kevin Dunion, Scottish Information Commissioner
    Response - 'The Scottish Experience'

Closing remarks:?
Professor Alan Page, Co-Director, Centre for Freedom of Information and Dean, School of Law





2-4 pm (optional lunch at 1pm and refreshments included at 4 pm)

  • Dr Daniel Carr, School of Law, University of Dundee
    Introduction and Overview.

Keynote address:

  • Ms Fiona Killen (Partner) and Ms Audrey Cameron (Associate) Anderson Strathern LLP
    Freedom of Information and Public Procurement.
  • Professor Allyson Pollock, University of Edinburgh
    Using Freedom of Information in public health research: the public or commercial interest?

?Panel discussion:?
Dr Daniel Carr, Audrey Cameron, Fiona Killen, Helena Brown (Burness LLP), Professor Allyson Pollock ??






2-4 pm (optional lunch at 1pm and refreshments included at 4 pm)


  • Chief Inspector Donald Thomson, Tayside Police
  • Introduction and Overview

Keynote address:

  • Mr David Goldberg
    FOI and Policing: The Scottish Experience

  • Mr Alastair Graham
    Business Lead, Protection of Vulnerable Group Legislation Implementation, Grampian Police, Competing claims of the Public Interest

Panel discussion:
Professor Fiona Raitt, Kirsty McGowan, Chief Inspector Donald Thomson, Alastair Graham and David Goldberg



Environmental Information


Dalhousie Building, University Campus
(optional lunch at 1pm and refreshments included at 4 pm)

    •    Dr Áine Ryall, University College Cork
    •    Professor Colin Reid, University of Dundee

Working with environmental information - Panel discussion
Professor Colin Reid, Dr Áine Ryall, Kevin Dunion, Emma Welsh and Guy Linley-Adams




Freedom of Information and Data Protection


Lectures by Christine O'Neill, Brodies LLP and David Banisar, Privacy International.

It is more than four years since the introduction of freedom of information legislation in Scotland. This seminar looks at the interaction of the right to access information in Scotland with the rights afforded by the UK-wide Data Protection Act 1998. What have we learned about the balance between these two laws?



Reflected glory? How does Scotland stand


Lectures by Kevin Dunion, Scottish Information Commissioner and Natasa Pirc Musar, Slovenian Information Commissioner and discussion chaired by Rosalind McInnes, Principal Solicitor, BBC Scotland.

Dalhousie Building, University of Dundee, 2-4pm.



Freedom of information in the devolved Scotland


Lecture by Professor Alan Page and discussion chaired by Lord Rodger of Earlsferry.

Dalhousie Building, University of Dundee, 2-4pm.



The Inaugural Seminar and launch of the CFOI


Freedom of Information: Hope and Experience lecture by The Rt. Hon. Lord Wallace of Tankerness, QC.