The Public Interest Test - FOISA

Guidance on applying the public interest test under FOISA

Under section 1(1) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), a person who requests information from a Scottish public authority which holds it is entitled to be given it by the authority.

This right is not absolute. In some cases, information is exempt from disclosure. The exemptions are contained in Part 2 of FOISA. Most of these exemptions are subject to the public interest test. These are known as "qualified exemptions".

Where a qualified exemption applies, the information must be disclosed unless the public interest in disclosing the information is outweighed by the public interest in maintaining the exemption. Where the competing public interests are evenly balanced, the information should be disclosed.

Exemptions which are not subject to the public interest test are known as "absolute exemptions". Where an absolute exemption applies, a public authority is entitled to withhold the information without going on to consider the public interest.

This guidance tells public authorities how to address the public interest test. It gives examples of the factors they should take into account when deciding where the public interest lies. Requesters may also find the guidance helpful when a public authority refuses to disclose information because it is subject to a qualified exemption under FOISA.

Download the guidance

The Public Interest Test FOISA

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