The Scottish Information Commissioner - It's Public Knowledge
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Filing cabinet with papers flying outDecisions Round-up - 30 July to 3 August 2012

Scottish Information Commissioner, Rosemary Agnew, published one decision this week, in response to an application made to her by a requester dissatisfied with the way in which a Scottish public authority had dealt with his information request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) act 2002.

Key messages

  • Don't allow jargon to prevent you from interpreting a request correctly

When interpreting the wording in a request, remember that you cannot expect an applicant to be aware of any specialised or technical language you use. Think about what the applicant is likely to have meant ? what is the common understanding of their wording? If it's not clear, contact the applicant to clarify it with them. By doing so, you can avoid interpreting a request too restrictively.

Summary of decision

Mr Cherbi asked the Scottish Ministers for any information they held on recommendation and awarding a Damehood to former Lord Advocate Eilish Angiolini, but Ministers claimed they did not hold any information. We found, during the investigation, that the term "recommendation" has a particular meaning for Ministers, when it comes to the honours system ? it refers to a very specific part of the process.  We accepted that "recommendations" and "nominations" are, in the eyes of Ministers, two different things - but also that this distinction is not generally known, and that Mr Cherbi had not meant to distinguish between the two in his request. We found that his request would cover information relating to nominations from the Scottish Government, but went on to agree with Ministers that (in line with section 18 of FOISA) it was not in the public interest to confirm or deny whether they held any information.

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