Information regarding ScotRail Chief Operating Officer: FOI release

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

Information requested

I wish to make an FOI request. Scotrail has announced a new chief operating officer for when the train operator becomes a public body. The appointment was made for this public body which is controlled by the Scottish Government. I have a number of questions below which were not answered in the past week.
ScotRail announces new Chief Operating Officer from 1 April 2022 | ScotRail

1. Who made the COO appointment, ScotRail, Transport Scotland or some other entity?

2. How many were on the panel that made the appointment and who are they.

3. How many were interviewed for the post.

4. Were they directly approached or was there an open recruitment policy.

5. What was the salary of the COO.

Can I make some points in advance to, perhaps, speed things up. Non disclosure is clearly not in the public interest and prevents proper public accountability of the actions of a public body. There is an in-built presumption in the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) that it is in the public interest to disclose information unless a public authority can show clearly why there is a greater public interest in withholding the information.

So far there has been a failure in that respect.

The Scottish Ministers have produced guidance for Scottish public authorities on how to effectively discharge their functions under FOI law: the FOI/EIR: Section 60 Code of Practice includes guidance on the disclosure of information relating to contracts and procurement (section 8, from page 28 onward). This contains “guiding principles” around the disclosure of procurement information (whether in relation to proactive publication or requests), including that the public should, for example, be able to access info on “how much money is being spent” (see section 8.1). Requests for such information should be considered alongside the guidance in the Scottish Ministers’ Section 60 Code of Practice.

In this case it is suggested that the appointment was made by ScotRail and therefore it is for ScotRail to divulge.

But this is an appointment, as is clearly stated by ScotRail, to a public body, and therefore there is a duty of transparency in this matter.


The new Chief Operating Officer has been recruited by, and is an employee of Abellio ScotRail Ltd. Abellio ScotRail Ltd. has an obligation under its contract to the Scottish Government to cooperate with and facilitate the smooth transition to ScotRail Trains Ltd. planned for 1 April 2022.

It is known that the current Chief Operating Officer of ScotRail intends to leave ScotRail. Prudently, therefore Abellio ScotRail Ltd. has run an open recruitment process to ensure a Chief Operating Officer will be in place in time to transfer under TUPE arrangements with other ScotRail staff on 1 April 2022

1. Abellio ScotRail made the appointment.

2. It is our understanding that a multi stage selection process was used, and that the final interview panel comprised Alex Hynes, Managing Director of Scotland’s Railway and Chris Gibb, Chief Executive of Scottish Rail Holdings Ltd. You may wish to contact ScotRail if you would like further details.

3. While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not hold the information you have requested.

This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information that you have requested as it was not responsible for undertaking the recruitment for the position of COO and as such does not hold how many candidates were considered.However, you may wish to contact ScotRail for this information.

4. We understand that the COO appointment was made following an open and fair recruitment process.

5. The salary information relating to the COO appointment is personally confidential information pertaining to an employee of ScotRail Trains Ltd and therefore is withheld against exemption Section 38 (1) (b) – Third party data.

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. names and contact details of individuals and companies, 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.

Once the COO becomes a public sector employee and in line with the Scottish Public Finance Manual, details of the COO’s remuneration will be published in due course within Scottish Rail Holdings’ year end accounts. These accounts will be published on Transport Scotland’s website once audited and laid before Parliament.

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Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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