The Scottish Information Commissioner - It's Public Knowledge
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Briefings and guidance

This page provides details of the guidance we publish across this website.

Covid-19 FOI UpdateThe FOI Act has been temporarily amended in response to the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic.
Visit our Covid-19 Information Hub to find out more.

Using your rights to ask for information
The Your Rights section provides practical advice and resources to help requesters make the best use of their FOI rights.


Key concepts FOISA briefings EIRS briefings
Information not held Information not held Information not held
Charging for information Charging a fee and excessive costs of compliance Charging for environmental information
The public interest test The public interest test
The public interest test
Vexatious, repeated or manifestly unreasonable requests Vexatious or repeated requests Manifestly unreasonable requests


Issue briefings
Information or documents - can a request specify documents?
Name of requester or applicant- why is it important to give the name of the person making the request important?
Are verbal requests valid? - Can requests be made by telephone or voicemail?
Content of notices- what must a response to an information request contain?

Right First Time Poster ThumbnailFOI - Get it right first time poster - downloadable poster giving practical advice for public bodies on responding promptly and effectively to the information requests they receive (PDF - 145kb)

Contact us if you'd like to request a hard copy of this poster.

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Exemption Briefing Series (FOISA)
Information Otherwise Accessible - Section 25
Prohibitions on Disclosure - Section 26
Information Intended for Future Publication - Section 27
Relations within the United Kingdom - Section 28
Formulation of Scottish Administration Policy - Section 29
Prejudice to Effective Conduct of Public Affairs - Section 30
National Security and Defence - Section 31
International Relations - Section 32
Commercial Interests and the Economy - Section 33
Investigations by Scottish Public Authorities - Section 34
Law Enforcement - Section 35
Confidentiality - Section 36
Court Records - Section 37
Personal Information - Section 38
Health, Safety and the Environment - Section 39
Audit Functions - Section 40
Communications with Her Majesty etc. and Honours - Section 41

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Briefings on Environmental Information and the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations (EIRs)
Introduction to the EIRs
Definition of Environmental Information
Public authorities and bodies covered by the EIRs
Obligations under the EIRs
Handling requests under the EIRs
Exceptions
Differences between EIRs and FOISA
Guidance for bodies not covered by FOISA

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Exception Briefing Series (EIRs)
Information not held - Regulation 10(4)(a)
Manifestly unreasonable requests- Regulation 10(4)(b)
Requests which are too general - Regulation 10(4)(c)
Internal communications - Regulation 10(4)(e)
International relations, national security - Regulation 10(5)(a)
Justice and fair trial - Regulation 10(5)(b)
Intellectual property rights - Regulation 10(5)(c)
Third party interests - Regulation 10(5)(f)
Protection of the environment - Regulation 10(5)(g)
Personal data - Regulation 11

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Briefings on Legislation

Covid-19 FOI UpdatePDF iconThe Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020: Determining the effects of coronavirus on an authority's ability to respond to requests (updated 05 June 2020)

Covid-19 FOI UpdatePDF iconThe Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020: Determining the effects of coronavirus on requests responded to between 7 April and 26 May 2020

PDF iconDifferences between FOISA and the UK FOI Act

PDF iconDifferences between EIRS and FOISA

PDF iconThe Freedom of Information (Scotland) Amendment Act 2013 Briefing Note - Updated December 2013

Scottish Government's Section 60 Code of Practice on the discharge of functions under the FOI Act and the EIRs (link to external website)

Scottish Government's Section 61 Code of Practice on records management (link to external website)

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Our procedures

Our enforcement policy
The Commissioner's enforcement policy sets out our approach to enforcing freedom of information law in Scotland. The policy states what will be enforced, and the outcomes we aim to achieve.

PDF iconEnforcement Policy

Intervention procedures
This document sets out the procedures that the Commissioner will follow to apply the Enforcement Policy on non-compliance with FOI legislation.

PDF iconIntervention Procedures

Responding to information requests
This document sets out how the Commissioner's team respond to requests made to us under FOISA, the EIRs and DPA. It provides advice and guidance to our staff on how to respond to requests and about good FOI practice. The structure of the guidance complements our Self-assessment Toolkit, enabling us to review all or parts of it periodically, to ensure we maintain good practice standards.

PDF iconResponding to Information Requests: Guidance and Procedures

Covid-19 FOI UpdatePDF iconResponding to Information Requests: How the Commissioner will respond to FOI requests during the temporary closure due to Covid-19 (updated 28 May 2020)

Our investigation procedures
We carried out a detailed review of our procedures in 2019, and made further changes in the light of the effects of the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic and the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020. Our new procedures are set out in the latest version of the Commissioner's Investigations Handbook:

Covid-19 FOI UpdatePDF iconCommissioner's Investigations Handbook (updated 12 June 2020)


As part of our new investigations procedures, the Commissioner will ask all public authorities submitting documentation in relation to an appeal to also submit a 'schedule of documents'. This will set out the type of document being submitted, and the reason(s) for any non-disclosure of information. You can download a "schedule of documents" form below:

Excel FileSchedule of Documents Form (Excel - 18kB)

PDF iconThe Commissioner's Investigations: A Guide for Scottish Public Authorities

Our enquiry procedures
These set out our approach in handling the many hundred enquiries we receive each year.

PDF iconEnquiries Guidance and Procedures

Our information charging policy
This sets out the Commissioner's policy in relation to charging for the information requests we receive. We very rarely charge fees when responding to a request.

PDF iconThe Commissioner's Information Charging Policy

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