The Scottish Information Commissioner - It's Public Knowledge
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Personal Information

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Information about yourself or other people.

access to personal information

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Why might my request be refused?


You have a general right to see all recorded information from a Scottish public authority.  Only in certain circumstances can the authority refuse your request, for example, if:


  • you have not provided enough detail to identify the information you want
  • the authority does not have the information you have asked for
  • it will cost over £600 to provide you with the information
  • the authority thinks your request is "vexatious" - this term can apply to requests which are intended to disrupt the authority's work, rather than genuine requests for information
  • your request is the same as one you have already made, which has been dealt with, or 
  • the information is exempt under FOI law in Scotland.

If the authority decides to refuse your request, it must write to you and explain why it is refusing.  If it thinks the information is exempt, it must explain why it thinks that this is the case.  The authority must also tell you what to do if you disagree.


Don't be put off asking if you think the information might be exempt - even if information is exempt, the authority may still let you have all or part of it.


What might I not be able to see?


Some categories of information are completely excluded from your rights of access - for example, documents prepared for court cases.


Other information may be exempt in some circumstances, for example if the authority can prove there would be real and significant damage to the authority or other people, if the information was made public.  This may include:

  • commercially sensitive information, or 
  • information which might endanger someone's health and safety.

In these circumstances, the public authority must also consider whether it would be in the "public interest" for the information to be released.  If the benefit to the public is greater than the harm to the authority or other people affected, the authority must release the information.  


In deciding whether it is in the public interest to provide information the authority should not take into account:

  • the possibility of embarrassing officials
  • possible loss of confidence in the authority
  • the seniority of the people involved, or
  • the risk of you misinterpreting the information.


What if only some of the information I want is exempt?


If your request is for a combination of information that can be released and which is exempt, the authority should (where possible) remove the exempt information and give you the rest.  If information is removed, the authority must explain why it has removed it.


If you want to know more about each of the exemptions and how they work, visit the "Briefings and guidance" section of the website.  You will also find more information on "vexatious" requests here.

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