Decisions Round-up: 17 to 28 February 2020

While the purpose of FOI is to enable the disclosure of information by public bodies, there are a small number of circumstances where certain information is strongly protected from disclosure into the public domain. We consider two of these circumstances in this week's Round-up.

Learning points:


  • Special category personal data will rarely be disclosed under FOI
    The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) defines certain types of personal data as "special categories". This includes information about a person's race, ethnicity, politics, religion, health or sexuality. Not surprisingly, GDPR only allows such information to be processed in limited circumstances. When it comes to disclosure under FOI - which is a form of processing - it's likely that disclosure will only be allowed if the data subject (the person the data is about) has either given consent (and there are strict rules as to what amounts to consent) or clearly made the information available themselves. Looking at data on ethnicity in Decision 035/2020, we couldn't find anything which would allow disclosure.

Decisions issued:


  • Decision 029/2020: West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership Board (the Board)
    The Board was asked for information about a former medical practice. It disclosed information for parts of the request and said it didn't hold information for other parts. Although some information was disclosed during our investigation, we accepted that no further information was held.


  • Decision 033/2020: Scottish Ministers
    The Ministers were asked about senior Scottish Government officials' travel between Edinburgh and London. The Ministers provided the requester with some information, but not with information regarding two senior officials. After a review, where the Ministers identified further information on one of the officials, we investigated and were satisfied that the Ministers didn't hold any information about the remaining official's travel between the two locations.


  • Decision 034/2020: Scottish Ministers
    The Ministers were asked for legal advice recently received by Marine Scotland on the use of Acoustic Deterrent Devices on fish farms. The Ministers withheld the information, arguing that the advice was legally privileged and so it was in the public interest not to disclose it. The Commissioner found that the Ministers were entitled to withhold the advice.


  • Decision 035/2020: Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS)
    SFRS was asked for numbers of firefighters who passed/failed the training period and how many of these were of BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) origin. SFRS withheld the information on the basis that it was personal data which, in this case, was exempt from disclosure. We ordered SFRS to provide the overall number of successful (and, by default, unsuccessful) recruits to the requester, but found that SFRS was correct to withhold BME data, as its disclosure could, in this case, lead to the identification of individuals.


  • Decision 036/2020: Scottish Ministers
    The Ministers were asked for the names of the companies which appeared as statistics in the Businesses in Scotland Report 2018. The Ministers withheld the information on the basis that disclosure was prohibited by other legislation. We agreed with the stance taken by the Ministers, and also found that they had given the requester reasonable advice and assistance.

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