The Public Interest Test
- The briefing below provides an overview of how public authorities should address the public interest test contained in section 2(1)(b) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA).
- Where an authority decides to cite a 'qualified' exemption as grounds for withholding information it must apply the public interest test.
- The test requires authorities to undertake a balancing exercise to consider the public interest in disclosing information and the public interest in maintaining the exemption.
- Where the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in the disclosure of the information, then the information can be withheld. If the public interest in disclosing the information is equal to or greater than the public interest in maintaining the exemption, then the information must be disclosed.
- The Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (the EIRs) also contain a public interest test under regulation 10(1)(b). The majority of the exceptions from disclosure within the EIRs are subject to the public interest test.
- This briefing should be read in conjunction with briefings issued by the Commissioner on the qualified exemptions, as they give examples of where the Commissioner has found the public interest to lie in relation to specific exemptions.
The briefing is intended to provide general guidance on the interpretation and application of the relevant exemptions and exceptions. Please remember that all requests for information must be considered on a case by case basis, and the Commissioner's decision is made on the basis of the specific circumstances of each case.
Download the briefing (PDF -150kb)
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