Requests for information
(a) Backlogs in responding to requests
20. Under section 10(1) of FOISA, a Scottish public authority must respond to requests for information promptly, and in any event by not later than the 20th working day after it receives the request.
21. We have interpreted “backlogs in responding to requests” as meaning requests for information under FOISA which:
(a) were not answered by the 20th working day after receipt; and
(b) remained unanswered at the end of the reporting period on 26 November 2020.
22. The number of requests in this category is 148.
(b) How many requests have been responded to
23. We have interpreted this as relating to the number of requests for information under FOISA that were responded to at any point within the reporting period, regardless of the date on which those requests were received.
24. The number of requests in this category is 746.
(c) What was provided in response to requests
25. We have interpreted this as relating to the information that is disclosed to requests for information under FOISA.
26. In the interests of openness and transparency, in July 2017 the Scottish Ministers began to publish online their responses to requests where information has been disclosed. This information is accessible from the Scottish Government website. Accordingly, we have not included this information in this report, as a single request may result in the disclosure of hundreds of pages of information.
27. Publication is not a mandatory requirement under FOISA, and relatively few authorities publish the information that they disclose in this way.
28. Within the Scottish Government, publication takes place after a final response has been issued to the requester. The final responses are passed to the FOI Unit, which selects the cases in which information has been disclosed and prepares them for response. This process involves a number of checks, principally to ensure that the requester’s personal information is not inadvertently disclosed. The FOI Unit also ensures that responses are prepared in an accessible format for online publication.
29. As noted in paragraph 10, approximately half of the staff of the FOI Unit, including two of our three publication officers, were originally redeployed to coronavirus-critical roles. Those remaining in the Unit focused on providing core services such as triaging and allocating new requests, and on providing essential support to staff across the organisation so that FOI requests and reviews could continue to be handled promptly and to a high standard.
30. This means that it has been taking longer than usual to publish responses. However, staff numbers in the FOI Unit are increasing and the Scottish Government remains committed to publishing the information disclosed in response to requests for information.
(d) Cases which were partially refused
31. We have interpreted this as relating to the number of requests for information under FOISA that we responded to within the reporting period where we:
(a) disclosed some information; and
(b) issued a refusal notice under section 16(1), (4) or (5) of FOISA in respect of other information
32. It excludes requests where we disclosed all the information requested and those where we did not disclose any information to the requester.
33. The number of requests where we disclosed some information, and issued a refusal notice under section 16(1), (4) or (5) of FOISA in respect of other information, is 146.
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