Decisions Round-up: 23 to 27 March 2015


We published four decisions between 23 and 27 March - details, links and learning points below.

Key messages:

  • Make sure you've located all the relevant information you have, by the end of the review at the latest
    Whether you intend to disclose the information or not, it's important that your searches find all the information you hold and which is captured by the request. It should only be in exceptional cases that further information will come to light during our investigation.
  • If you have information which would place your response in context, it's important to give this to the requester
    Providing context to the request may, for example, explain why you don't hold information the requester expects you to hold. Providing explanations of this kind may remove the need for the requester to appeal to the Commissioner.

    We considered both of these issues in Decision 033/2015.
  • Take care not to provide extraneous material to the requester - or, for that matter, consider it in responding to the request
    Giving out duplicates or blank sheets can prove frustrating to the requester, as it did in the case of Decision 034/2015. It's also inefficient to cast the net too widely in considering what falls within the scope of the request: in Decision 035/2015, we identified quite a lot of material which shouldn't have been considered by the authority at all.
  • Be realistic in your expectations
    If a public authority explains that it's not required to hold all the information you expect it to hold, consider that carefully. It may be right. We can't consider what an authority should hold, but we can take account of arguments like that when we consider whether it's done enough to find the information you asked for. In Decision 034/2015, we were satisfied that the authority had done this.
  • Full records are important if you want to argue that a request is vexatious
    When you are arguing that a request is vexatious, for example, because it's part of a course of correspondence causing you a significant burden, it's important to be able to provide evidence of the scale of the problem. We found this particularly helpful in the case which led to Decision 037/2015.


Decisions issued:

  • Decision 033/2015 Paul Hutcheon and Historic Scotland
    Mr Hutcheon asked Historic Scotland for information regarding the potential refurbishment or relocation of the First Minister's official residence. Historic Scotland withheld information under exceptions relating to internal communications and public safety. We found that Historic Scotland was entitled to withhold the information under these exceptions.

    However, we also found that Historic Scotland failed to provide Mr Hutcheon with adequate advice and assistance when responding to his request. We were particularly concerned that information which could have provided context to the authority's response was not identified until we were investigating the case and had issued an information notice.
  • Decision 034/2015 Mr Z and Dumfries and Galloway Council
    Mr Z asked the Council for a variety of information about work carried out at a residential property. The Council disclosed some information but withheld other information. During the investigation, the Council disclosed most of the withheld information but continued to withhold a document which was an internal communication. It also continued to withhold some personal data. We found that the public interest favoured disclosure of the internal communication, but that the Council correctly withheld the personal data.
  • Decision 035/2015 Paul Case and City of Edinburgh Council
    Mr Case asked the Council for all internal communications, including draft reports, relating to three planning applications. The Council refused to disclose the information on the basis that it comprised internal communications (Environmental Information Regulations). We upheld the Council's refusal.
  • Decision 037/2015 Alan Milligan and Glasgow City Council
    Mr Milligan asked the Council for reports relating to a vehicle taken into the Council's car pound. The Council's response stated that it considered Mr Milligan's request to be vexatious. We agreed.

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