Publication - FOI/EIR release

Consultation on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill: FOI review

Published: 4 Oct 2021

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Published:
4 Oct 2021
Consultation on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill: FOI review
FOI reference: FOI/202100229764 review of 202100211057
Date received: 9 Aug 2021
Date responded: 6 Sep 2021
Information requested

Your request, reference 202100211057
Please provide the consultation responses to the Government's consultation on its GRA Reform Bill, which closed in March 2020, and which is overseen by the Family Law Team.

Your request for review, reference 202100229764
I would like to request a review of this decision on the following bases:

  • You have not provided a total cost, as you calculate it, for providing me with the information I requested. Please can you provide a total cost, as you calculate it, in your response.
  • I do not accept that the cost to provide the information I requested should exceed £600. Firstly, the Scottish Government already budgeted to publish consultation responses, and outsourced the work to analyse and prepare those responses for publication. As such, how can the cost of doing this work be considered an *additional* cost? Secondly, I disagree that it would take 8 minutes to check and redact each response, when search words can be used to electronically search all documents, and names could be automatically redacted etc.I believe locating and retrieving the information requested in electronic format can be provided within the cost limits.
  • As outlined in paragraphs 23 to 26 of the Commissioner's guidance on excessive costs, you have a duty under section 15 of FOISa to provide advice and assistance on how I can submit a new, narrower request within the cost limit, and yet you have not done this. As such, I believe the Government has failed to provide reasonable advice and assistance, and this also forms part of my request for a review.
Response

As someone who wasn't involved with the handling of the original request, I have undertaken this review through consulting all relevant documentation and seeking further information in line with your original request and each of the points raised in your request for a review.

My conclusion is that the original decision should be upheld with modifications. My basis for this includes:

  • The projected cost of £674 to retrieve, document, and provide the documents located in hard copy in St Andrew’s House appears reasonable given the nature and scale of the tasks required.
  • Within your request for a review, you state you do not believe it would take 8 minutes to check and redact each response, on the basis that this could be undertaken electronically. I have, however, understood from the response provided that 8 minutes refers exclusively to the manual locating and subsequent digitising of the 337 responses held as hard copies. In regards to redaction, I understand that this cannot be done automatically and requires manual review. This is owing to the nature of responses wherein sensitive information may be contained within the body of responses and the limitations of related software in identifying this.
  • I have, however, noted that the costs associated with providing the 16,385 responses in Citizen Space are not specified. Following consultation with the appropriate team, I understand it would take an estimated 6 minutes at £15 per hour to provide each of these responses. This includes the tasks of locating, extracting, and converting each submission into a pdf. This equates to an estimated cost of £24,577.50 to provide all responses received electronically, resulting in an estimated total cost of £25,251.50 for all responses.
  • There are stated plans for an independent analysis of consultation responses and the publication of responses from organisations and groups where there is permission to do so. I understand that this exercise does not include a redaction of each of the 17,058 responses and I have concluded that undertaking the additional tasks required to fulfil your request would have exceeded the £600 cost limit. I do, however, believe information on plans for publishing this information should have been highlighted to you.
  • In regard to the duty to provide clear advice on submitting a new, narrower request within the cost limit, I have understood from reviewing internal correspondence that this was given active consideration. My conclusion is that, based on the nature of the request and volume of responses, the options to provide meaningful advice were limited.
  • I do, however, believe that it would have been beneficial to have engaged directly with you on the request and apologise that this did not occur. In support of this, it would have been helpful to have provided an indication of the size of sample that could have been provided within the cost limit, notwithstanding that a randomised sample would not have clearly aligned with the original request for all responses. Based on the cost calculations provided, this equates to a maximum of 300 of the hard copy responses or 400 of the responses held on Citizen Space (or a costed combination from across both).

About FOI
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.

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG