- 28 Oct 2019
Date received: 12 Sep 2019
Date responded: 10 Oct 2019
"How many FOIs have been submitted to the Scottish Government in 2019 requesting Nicola Sturgeon's emails or correspondence as a whole i.e. including letters, phone calls, other types of communication? As an example, this could be done by searching for "Nicola Sturgeon" and "emails" within the Scottish Government's FOI tracker.
In how many of the Scottish Government's responses to those FOI requests in 2019 was a search conducted of the address "firstname.lastname@example.org" specifically?"
I have concluded that the original decision should be confirmed with modifications.
In your request for a review, you express dissatisfaction with our response in so far as you consider that it does not answer the second part of your request.
I have accordingly reviewed the question that you asked in the second part of your request, and the response that we provided. I have concluded that our response answers your question indirectly, but this is not immediately apparent as it is contained within a wider explanation as to how searches are carried out. Accordingly, I have decided that the original decision should be modified in order to restate more clearly the answer to your question. I also consider that it should have been made clearer that the surrounding information was being provided to you outwith FOISA in order to assist your understanding of how searches are carried out.
The answer to your question is that, of the 49 cases falling within the first part of your request, searches were conducted in relation to the email address "email@example.com" in 7 cases.
Information provided outwith FOISA
As we previously indicated, Scottish Government officials would not normally be expected to send information about government business to (or receive such information from) an email account ending "@snp.org". The email address "firstname.lastname@example.org" is not used for the conduct of government business. If correspondence received at that address is identified as relating to government business, it would be forwarded to the "email@example.com" email address in order that an official response could be produced. On receipt, the case would then be logged on the Ministerial and Corporate Communications System (MACCS) or its successor, MiCase.
Because such correspondence is being forwarded to a official email address, its receipt should also be identified as part of our routine searches. Similarly, if correspondence were exceptionally sent from an official email address to "firstname.lastname@example.org", the correspondence sent should be identified as part of our routine searches.
As this process has been shown to identify emails with non-government accounts (as shown in the response to FOI 201900002907) we do not need to routinely conduct searches in relation to the "email@example.com" email address when responding to an FOI request. We do not consider that it would be proportionate to search routinely in relation to non-government email addresses, particularly when correspondence relating to government business sent to such addresses would be forwarded in order that an official response could be produced and recorded.
As you will be aware, the section 60 Code of Practice (paragraph 6.2.2) recommends that "[s]earches should be proportionate and focus on systems (whether paper-based or electronic) where staff with a working knowledge of the records relating to the information request consider what information might be held."
Where a request for information expressly mentions a specific email address (as a number of your previous requests have), we would of course carry out searches in relation to that address. This accounts for the 7 cases where that email address was specifically searched for.
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House