- 4 Mar 2021
Date received: 29 Sep 2020
Date responded: 12 Jan 2021
"All internal communications regarding the handling of a FOI request, case reference 202000068453, "Extension of FOI response times""
I have now completed my review of our failure to respond to your request dated 29 September 2020 under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) for "all internal communications regarding the handling of a FOI request, case reference 202000068453, "Extension of FOI response times"".
In accordance with section 21(4) of FOISA, I have also reached a decision on your request.
I apologise for the length of time it has taken to respond to your request for information. The delay has arisen through a combination of factors. The FOI Unit deals with FOI policy matters in addition to providing triage, casework and advisory services to the rest of the Scottish Government. It also responds to FOI requests on matters for which it is responsible.
During the period since your request was made, the Unit was very heavily involved in the Parliamentary passage of the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 and in preparing guidance on its provisions, then on preparing for and the Parliamentary passage of the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act 2020, as well as providing guidance on the changes introduced by the No.2 Act. At the same time, approximately half of the staff of the Unit has been redeployed to Covid critical roles: some have been redeployed on a full-time basis, with others combining Covid-related shifts and aspects of their ordinary roles.
Those remaining in the Unit have been refocussed on providing core services such as triaging and allocating new requests, and on providing essential support to staff across the organisation. Regrettably, this has led to delays in responding to your request and I apologise for this.
I can now provide our response to your original request.
I enclose a copy of most of the information you requested.
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because exemptions under sections 38(1)(a) and 38(1) (b) of FOISA (personal information) apply to that information.
An exemption under section 38(1)(a) of FOISA (personal information of requester) applies to a small amount of the information requested because it is personal information of which you are the data subject (i.e. references to your name), and so it is subject to the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018. This exemption is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (third party personal information) applies to a small amount of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. the names and contact details of civil servants in grades below the Senior Civil Service, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018. This exemption is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.
You may wish to be aware that your original request (202000068453) was received at a time of very considerable pressure for the FOI Unit, for the reasons set out above, and the resources available to us to respond to FOI requests were fully deployed in responding to complex requests which had been received prior to yours. Accordingly, we hold relatively little information that is within scope of this request i.e. internal communications about the handling of 202000068453 between 30 July 2020 (when you made that request) and 29 September (when you made this request). We apologise for the fact that we have not yet responded to 202000068453: work continues on what is a complex request and we hope to be in a position to respond soon.
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