MacKay Hannah

Accountability, information and openness in pandemic and beyond

Wed 3rd Mar 2021

OVERVIEW View Webinar Agenda

The webinar will explore how the COVID pandemic and its consequences have impacted upon public bodies in terms of availability of information, effects upon accountability and transparency of decision making. It will discuss the lessons of that experience during pandemic and the implications for a culture of openness in those bodies post-pandemic. 

The COVID pandemic has had an unprecedented effect on every aspect of public, private and third sector organisational activity. Nothing has been left untouched. Accountability, information and openness has been affected both formally – by, for example, the emergency changes to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 enacted temporarily during 2020 – and informally as public bodies have refocussed staff and priorities towards addressing COVID. 

What have been the effects of measures intended to be temporary, both formal and informal, now enacted for a prolonged period? What are the implications for accountability of the altered relationship between service providers and citizens, from sustaining pro-active engagement through to addressing complaints and the consequences of dissatisfaction? Will a sustained period of emergency practice in openness reshape culture, practice and the shape of public sector bodies in the longer term?  

Daren Fitzhenry will outline what have we learned about accessing information during COVID and beyond. Rosemary Agnew will discuss the consequences and implications for accountability from a complaints handling perspective. Lynda Towers will reflect on openness and decision making and whether public bodies are being reshaped by pandemic.  

Key points: 

  • What has been the impact of COVID on accountability, information and openness?
  • How have public bodies responded, formally and informally?
  • Is accountability being sustained and what are the long term implications?
  • Are public bodies being reshaped by pandemic?
  • Implications for the longer term relationship between public bodies and citizens
  • COVID consequences: Weakening openness or making transparency irresistible?


Neil Stevenson

Chief Executive, Scottish Legal Complaints Commission

Daren Fitzhenry

Scottish Information Commissioner

Rosemary Agnew

Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

Lynda Towers

Director of Public Law Morton Fraser LLP

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Excellent conference - good introduction to the new legislation.

Elaine Fee, Morrison Media,
Scotland's New Lobbying Act Conference, September 2017