- 1 Apr 2021
Date received: 14 Dec 2020
Date responded: 14 Jan 2021
Please could you supply me with any recorded information held by the Scottish Government that relates to advice provided to Scottish local authorities, and indeed, any other Scottish public body.
I enclose a copy of some of the information you have requested, as set out in the Annex to this letter.
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 an exemption under section 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA applies to that information. This exemption applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. names and contact details of Scottish Government staff in grades below Senior Civil Service level, 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.
Information provided outwith FOISA
It may assist you if we provide some further explanation as to how the Scottish Government liaises with other Scottish public authorities in relation to the handling of FOI requests. We are clear as a matter of policy that neither the Scottish Government nor any other Scottish public authority should instruct other Scottish public authorities on how they should answer information requests.
Of course, we may offer views where we are consulted as interested third parties, and this is in line with the Scottish Ministers’ section 60 Code of Practice, agreed after consultation with the Scottish Information Commissioner. Third party consultation requests are received by individual business areas across the Scottish Government as well as by the FOI Unit, and so a request which sought information about third party consultation would be likely to require a search of all of the records of the Scottish Government, and so we estimate that answering such a request would exceed the upper cost limit of £600. I accordingly have interpreted your request as not relating to such third party consultation.
In addition, the Scottish Government’s FOI Unit may occasionally provide informal support to very small authorities that are closely linked to the Scottish Government, such as the Registrar of Independent Schools in Scotland, rent officers, and the Drinking Water Quality Regulator. In each case, FOISA designates these officeholders as a separate authority from the Scottish Ministers, but the office is held by a single Scottish Government official. That support consists of general advice and awareness of FOI, but does not extend to advising how to handle specific information requests.
Given that you suggest that the Scottish Government has provided advice to local authorities about how they should handle FOI requests relating to some aspects of their response to Covid-19, I have consulted the our Health and Social Care Group Hub, who advise that, it has not advised any other authorities on how they should respond to requests about Covid-19.
The Scottish Government has been providing support to local authorities in their administration of Covid-19 business support grants via an issues log which is a COSLA document. The purpose of this log is to record issues raised by COSLA relating to Covid-19 business support grants and information or advice on a range of grant specific policy and operational questions posed by individual local authorities. Matters are recorded on the issues log along with any related comments. The log is not a mechanism to offer advice on FoI handling, although an issue relating to FoI has been noted on it.
You might also be interested to note that the Scottish Government has published a live issues log for reference. Details can be found here Coronavirus Business Support Scheme criteria for Local Authorities: FOI release - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
LIST OF DOCUMENTS SUPPLIED
Annexes: A-I - Emails
Annex: J - Issues Log
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