Decisions Round-up: 13 to 24 April 2015



We published eight decisions between 13 and 24 April - details, links and learning points below.

Key messages:

  • If you decide to withhold information, be prepated to explain why
    You must be able to satisfy us that an exemption applies. If you don't provide enough evidence or explanation, we will order disclosure of the information (see Decision 048/2015). It's not enough to argue that the information may be misinterpreted or taken out of context - providing additional explanation with the information can prevent this happening.
  • It's good to go the extra mile
    In Decision 049/2015, we commended SEPA for choosing to provide information which wasn't covered by the request, but which was clearly relevant.

    Although it's not mentioned in Decision 050/2015, it was also a case where the public authority provided as much information and explanation as it could, outside the FOI Act, in an attempt to assist people who had personal interests in the information.
  • Make sure your searches will find all relevant information
    There may be clear signs that your searches aren't adequate - for instance, if there are unexplained gaps in the information you find. In Decision 053/2015, we criticised the searches carried out after it took several attempts, and considerable persistence from the requester, to identify and provide all information covered by the request.

    If you want to assess how well your authority carries out searches, download Module 2: Searching for, locating and retrieving information from our self-assessment toolkit pages.
  • Requests are vexatious, not requesters
    Don't assume that a request is vexatious simply because there has been a lot of previous correspondence on a related subject. Each case must be decided on its own merits - it is a request that can be deemed vexatious, not a requester. Decision 055/2015 is a case where we didn't agree that a request was vexatious, despite a history of vexatious requests on the same subject.

Decisions issued:

  • Decision 048/2015 Tom Gordon and the Scottish Ministers
    Mr Gordon asked the Ministers for recordings and transcripts of an interview with the First Minister (at the time, Alex Salmond). The Ministers withheld the information, claiming that disclosure would substantially prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs and the commercial interests of GQ Magazine. The Ministers didn't provide enough evidence to convince us that the harm would happen, and we ordered the Ministers to disclose the information.
  • Decision 049/2015 Alexander Adamson and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA)
    Mr Adamson asked for information about two cottages where there had been drainage problems and pollution. After investigating, we found that he had received all the information which SEPA held about this. SEPA also chose to provide Mr Adamson with some information which didn't fall within his request but which was on a related issue.
  • Decision 050/2015 Gordon MacDonald MSP and Police Scotland
    Mr MacDonald asked for information from a Significant Case Review report. An anonymised version of the report had already been published. We accepted that the remaining information was sensitive personal data (and couldn't be disclosed), or wasn't held by the Police.
  • Decision 051/2015 Peter Matthews and the Scottish Ministers
    Dr Matthews asked for information from correspondence with universities about an inscribed stone. The Ministers failed to respond to his request or request for review within 20 working days.
  • Decision 052/2015 Amir Aryan Manesh and Glasgow City Council
    Mr Manesh asked for information about flooding affecting his property. The Council failed to reply to his request for a review within 20 working days.
  • Decision 053/2015 Katherine Bontoft and Scottish Water
    Miss Bontoft asked for data about water levels at Elliston Weir. Scottish Water provided data for some years, but not for others. During our investigation, Scottish Water carried out more searches in response to comments from the applicant, finding more data each time. We eventually accepted that all relevant information had been found and provided.
  • Decision 054/2015 William Forbes and Transport Scotland
    Mr Forbes asked for information about discussions on the refurbishment of Prestwick Airport railway station. Transport Scotland provided some information and withheld one document. We found that this was all the information which Transport Scotland held on the subject, and we accepted that the withheld information was exempt from disclosure.
  • Decision 055/2015 James Milligan and Glasgow City Council
    Mr Milligan asked for information about parking restrictions signs in a specified area. The Council had previously found that other requests about parking restrictions were vexatious, and took the same view in this case. However, we found that the circumstances of this case were different, and required the Council to review its response to Mr Milligan.

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