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Round-up iconDecisions Round-up: 27 November to 1 December 2017

It's essential that requests for environmental information are responded to under the correct regime. This week's round-up shows why, as we publish our first decision to find that an EIR exception can't be applied because the information relates to an emission…

Learning points:

 

  • It's important to respond to requests under the right regime
    The Environmental Information Regulations (the EIRs) differ in a number of ways from the Freedom of Information Act. The provisions on charging are different, for example, and the exemptions (called exceptions under the EIRs) don't all match up. It's important, therefore, to ensure that requests are responded to under the right regime - this didn't happen in Decision 193/2017.

 

  • Environmental information - you may not be able to withhold information on emissions
    A number of the exceptions in the EIRs can't apply if the information relates to emissions. Decision 191/2017 looked at information which was about the effects of medicine used to treat sea lice on the marine environment. It was about discharges into the water and, therefore, about omissions, which meant that the exception the public authority wanted to use couldn't apply. This is the first time we'd reached this conclusion in a decision.

 

  • Make sure you find all the information you can when responding to a request
    We can't emphasise too strongly the importance of robust searches when handling a request for information. It's a fundamental part of a public authority's duties under FOI law that they identify all the information they hold which falls within the scope of the request. In Decision 190/2017, we found that the public authority hadn't fulfilled this duty fully.

 

  • Remember to respond on time
    There were three cases this week where the authority hadn't provided a response within the FOI timescales. Responding on time should be an easy way for authorities to meet their FOI responsibilities.
     

Decisions issued:

 

  • Decision 190/2017 Carolyn Neilson and Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board (NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde)
    NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde was asked for a wide range of information about its GP Out-of-Hours Service.

    We found that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde failed to comply with the FOI timescales, and failed to identify all the relevant information it held. However, we accepted that it was correct to withhold some personal data and wasn't obliged to respond to part of the request because it would cost more than £600 to do so.

 

  • Decision 191/2017 Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland and Scottish Ministers
    The Ministers were asked for information concerning the peer review of a report on the environmental impact of sea lice medicine.

    We found that the Ministers weren't entitled to withhold the information under the exception in regulation 10(5)(f) of the EIRs. The information related to emissions, so the exception couldn't apply and the Ministers had to disclose the information.

 

  • Decision 192/2017 Anna Hamilton and Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council (SFC)
    The SFC was asked for information about when it was provided with specified details by Glasgow Clyde College Board. The SFC finally responded to the request after we ordered it to do so.

    A fresh appeal questioned whether the SFC held more information. Following an investigation, we were satisfied that the SFC had carried out appropriate searches and disclosed all the information it held.

 

  • Decision 193/2017 Gordon Hodge and Dumfries and Galloway Council
    Mr Hodge asked for information relating to the Whitesands Flood Prevention Scheme. The Council disclosed the information it held, stating other information was readily available online. While the Commissioner found that the Council should have considered the request under the EIRs, he was satisfied that the Council had carried out appropriate searches and disclosed all the information it held.

 

  • Brian Gourlay and West Dunbartonshire Council
    The Council was asked for information about the evaluation of certain documents and who was responsible for Corporate Governance within the Council. We found that the Council failed to respond to the request and subsequent request for review within the FOI timescales.

 

  • Decision 195/2017 Brian Martin and City of Edinburgh Council
    Mr Martin asked for information about a Building Warrant application. We found that the Council failed to respond to his request for review within the timescale.

 

  • Decision 196/2017 Lorna Hudson and Scottish Ministers
    The Ministers were asked for evidence relating to the removal of the Glasgow Clyde Board of Management. Our decision found that the Ministers did not respond to the request for review within the FOI timescale.

 

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