The Scottish Information Commissioner - It's Public Knowledge
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Filing cabinet with papers flying outDecision Round-up: 20 to 24 August 2012

 Scottish Information Commissioner, Rosemary Agnew, published four decisions this week, in response to applications made to her by requesters dissatisfied with the way in which a Scottish public authority had dealt with their information requests under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004.

Key messages

  • Your right to request information only applies to information that is actually held by a Scottish public authority

An authority can only provide you with information if it holds it. If it doesn't have access to information held by contractors, it can't provide it to you.  If you don't know whether an authority holds the information you want to see, it may be quicker to contact the authority to check before you make a request for it.

The Section 60 Code of Practice issued by Scottish Ministers under FOI laws contains helpful guidance for authorities on disclosing information relating to contracts or procurement processes.

  • Requests for personal information must consider all relevant factors carefully

When you receive a request for personal information, take care to ensure that you consider all the facts in that particular case.  Where the request is for information about a third party, you must weigh up the legitimate interests of both the applicant and the third party carefully.  While the seniority of a member of staff may be one factor which could move the balance in favour of disclosure, any legal agreements requiring the information to be withheld may significantly alter that balance.

Summary of Decisions

Mr Cruickshanks asked Transport Scotland to provide the short list criteria and weighting for a tendering process for event photography relating to the Forth Replacement Crossing. Transport Scotland advised Mr Cruickshanks that it did not hold the information he was seeking, as it was held by a contractor.  Following an investigation, the Commissioner accepted that Transport Scotland did not hold the information Mr Cruickshanks had asked for.  Mr Cruickshanks felt that Transport Scotland should have asked the contractor for the information, but the Commissioner pointed out that Transport Scotland was not legally obliged to do so.

  • Decision 136/2012 - Paul Hutcheon of the Sunday Herald and the University of Abertay Dundee

Paul Hutcheon of the Sunday Herald asked the University of Abertay in Dundee for details of the payment made to its former Principal in retirement and compensation for loss of office.  The University directed Mr Hutcheon to publish information relating to the former Principal's pension, and withheld details of the compensation paid for loss of office.  The Commissioner found that the University was entitled to withhold this information, having taken into consideration the terms of a compromise agreement between the University and the former Principal.

Mr T asked the University of Abertay in Dundee how much it paid to its former Principal as compensation for loss of office, and to reimburse legal fees or other costs.  The University withheld that information on the basis that it was personal data, disclosure of which would breach the first data protection principle.  The Commissioner accepted that the University was entitled to withhold this information, having taken into consideration the compromise agreement between the University and the former Principal.

Mr E asked Glasgow Caledonian University for the taught procedure for the compulsory administration of medication to patients suffering from mental health conditions.  The University notified Mr E that it did not hold this information because no such procedure was taught on its nursing course.  Following an investigation, the Commissioner agreed that the University did not hold the information.

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