Publication - FOI/EIR release

The James Hutton Institute report on the impact of sewage sludge: EIR review

Information request and response under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004

Published:
9 Nov 2021
The James Hutton Institute report on the impact of sewage sludge: EIR review
FOI reference: FOI/202100243526 review of 202100219910
Date received: 28 Sep 2021
Date responded: 14 Oct 2021
Information requested

Your request, reference 202100219910
My request relates to a report on the human health and environmental impacts of the use of sewage sludge on agricultural land.

I understand that the report was commissioned by the Scottish Government in 2016/2017 following the 2016 Sludge Review.

I understand that the report was written by the James Hutton Institute in 2017.

I would be grateful if you could provide me with:
1. A copy of the original report itself,

2.Copies of any subsequent revised versions of the report, and

3. Copies of any correspondence between the Scottish Government and the James Hutton Institute regarding the report.

Your review request, reference 202100243526 

Response explained that the exemption under Section 27(1) of FOISA applied, and stated that “the report and all associated documents are due to be published within 12 weeks of the date of your request”. The ‘report’ refers to the James Hutton Institute report on the impacts of sewage sludge, which was commissioned by the Scottish Government.

More than 12 weeks have now passed since the date of my FOI request. I note that you have not yet sent me a copy of the report and it does not appear to have been published elsewhere.

Response

I have been asked to look at your request afresh, to decide whether the original response should be confirmed, with or without modifications, as appropriate, or that a fresh decision should be substituted. I can confirm that I was not involved in the handling or decision-making around the original response.

In reviewing this case, I have checked whether the procedures followed our statutory obligations. I have determined that as the information you have requested is environmental in nature we should have responded to your request under the Environmental Information Regulations. I am satisfied that a report which relates to the impact of sewage sludge would fall with regulation 2(1)(a) and 2(1)(b) of the EIRs.

I have concluded that a different decision should be substituted.

As the information you have requested is ‘environmental information’ for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), as noted above we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.

Attached is a copy of the James Hutton report – The Impacts on Human Health and Environment Arising From the Spreading of Sewage Sludge to Land (CR/2016/23) – as requested in part 1 above. Please note that the report is in 5 parts.

I have also reconsidered the searches undertaken to identify any information held falling within parts 2 and 3 of your request. I am satisfied that these searches were appropriate and can confirm that no information is held by the Scottish Government which would fall within the scope of these parts of your request.

Under the terms of the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs (information not held), the Scottish Government is not required to provide information which it does not have.

This exception is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. While we recognise that there may be some public interest in information about human health and environmental impacts of the use of sewage sludge on agricultural land clearly we cannot provide information which we do not hold.

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Contact

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

The Scottish Government
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