Approach to reporting
The reporting period
11. The second Act came into force on 27 May 2020. It provides for reporting periods to be two months long, so this report covers the period from 27 July to 26 September 2020.
How the reporting requirements have been interpreted
12. Paragraph 12(2) of schedule 4 to the second Act sets out the matters that must be included in the report as follows:
(a) backlogs in responding to requests
(b) how many requests have been responded to
(c) what was provided in response to requests
(d) cases which were partially refused
(e) the number of requests subject to an internal review
(f) backlogs in the internal review process
(g) appeals made to the Commissioner in respect of requests
13. In order to assist readers of this report, we have explained below how we have interpreted each of these requirements. Where possible, we have interpreted the matters broadly in conformity with the basis on which we report quarterly to the Commissioner, to facilitate comparisons.
14. However, a direct comparison is unlikely to be possible because the respective requirements do not align precisely. The first reporting period covers part of the third quarter in the Commissioner's reporting cycle. Additionally, the six-week period following the end of each quarter mentioned above allows us to ensure that our case-handling system is updated as far as possible with data relating to that quarter, improving the accuracy of those statistics. By contrast, this report requires to be laid before the Parliament no later than 14 days after the expiry of the reporting period. Accordingly, the case-handling system has to be interrogated for the relevant data immediately at the end of the period, without allowing for any updating.
What is covered by this report
15. Paragraph 12(1) of schedule 4 to the second Act requires the Scottish Ministers to lay reports before the Scottish Parliament in accordance with paragraph 12 on their responses to requests for information under FOISA. Accordingly, it does not contain information about our handling of requests for environmental information, because these are handled under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 instead of FOISA.
Bodies covered by this report
16. The reporting requirement in the second Act applies to the Scottish Ministers, who are listed as a Scottish public authority for the purposes of FOISA in paragraph 1 of schedule 1 to FOISA. The report is therefore concerned with the core directorates of the Scottish Government and its associated executive agencies, in accordance with our usual FOI practice.
17. The reporting requirement does not apply to the wider Scottish Administration, and in particular to the non-Ministerial officeholders listed in Part 2 of schedule 1 to FOISA. Some of these officeholders such as the Keeper of the Records of Scotland and the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages for Scotland use the Scottish Government's FOI case-handling system, MiCase. However, we have excluded information about these officeholders because they are separate Scottish public authorities for the purposes of FOISA, and the reporting requirement does not apply to them.
18. Executive agencies of the Scottish Ministers generally use MiCase and information in relation to them is included in this report. However, this report does not include information about the Scottish Prison Service ("SPS"), which has an entirely separate FOI handling system. SPS has historically reported its statistical information to the Commissioner separately, and we consider that including SPS information in this report would potentially be confusing, as this information is never normally aggregated with that of the Scottish Ministers.
19. Information in relation to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service ("COPFS") is also excluded from the scope of this report. This is because it is partly covered by the Scottish Ministers' designation and partly covered by the separate designation of procurators fiscal in Part 2 of schedule 1 to FOISA. As with SPS, COPFS has historically reported its statistical information to the Commissioner separately, and we consider that including COPFS information in this report would potentially be confusing, with the added complication that the majority of COPFS requests fall outwith the Scottish Ministers' designation.