A Guide to Doing Business in Scotland Freedom of Information in Scotland

Scotland has well established freedom of information laws which allow individuals to request information held by or on behalf of Scottish public authorities.

The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (the FOISA) provides a statutory right for organisations and individuals to access any recorded information (except if exempt) held by or on behalf of Scottish public authorities.  A similar right exists to access environmental information held by a Scottish public authority under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004.

 

Scottish public authorities must proactively publish information, respond to requests for information from the public and provide advice and assistance to requesters. If a requestor is unhappy with the authority’s response, FOISA gives them the right to appeal and request the authority to review how the information request has been handled.  FOISA also gives requestors a right to appeal decisions to the Scottish Information Commissioner if they remain dissatisfied and a further right to appeal the Scottish Information Commissioner’s decision to the Court of Session on a point of law.

To which organisations does FOISA apply?

FOISA applies to Scottish public authorities. Examples of public authorities include the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament, Police Scotland, The National Health Service, and local authorities.

There are, however, a number of other organisations which fall under this definition. In addition, many other types of organisation are designated in other legislation made by the Scottish Government.

A comprehensive list of Scottish Public Authorities can be found here.

How is a FOISA request made?

All requests made to public authorities under FOISA must be in writing. There is usually no specific form for this. All that must be included are details of the information requested and the full name and address of the requester.

Public authorities have to respond to a FOISA request within 20 working days. However, an authority can refuse the request under certain circumstances, for example if the cost of responding to the request will exceed the statutory cost threshold, if there is not enough detail or information to identify the information requested, if the public authority does not hold the information or the information is exempt from disclosure (and there are a large number of potential exemptions). Public authorities cannot, however, refuse to disclose information just because it might cause discomfort or embarrassment to public officials.

Organisations considering doing business with public authorities in Scotland should therefore be alive to the potential application of the freedom of information regime. FOISA requests can be a potential useful source of public sector information.

Our Awards & Accreditations

  • In 2016, we became one of the first law firms in Scotland to become Living Wage accredited employers.

  • Winners of Corporate & Commercial Team of the Year and Family Law Team of the Year at the Scottish Legal Awards 2020.

  • Our Real Estate team won the Property Team of the Year Award at the British Legal Awards in 2018.

  • Winner of SME of the Year at the Scottish SME Awards 2017, hosted by Scottish Business Insider.

  • Highly Commended for Commercial Team of the Year at the British Legal Awards 2016.

  • We are a proud member of the Legal Sustainability Alliance, a network of law firms committed to working collaboratively to reduce our environmental impact

  • In 2019, MacRoberts achieved Cyber Essentials Plus certification, a UK Government entry-level information security standard. 

  • MacRoberts holds the ISO 9001:2015 certification for Quality Management, the most widely recognised quality management system standard in the world.

  • MacRoberts holds the ISO14001:2015 certification for Environmental Management, demonstrating our ongoing commitment to environmental awareness.

  • MacRoberts holds the ISO27001:2013 certification for Information Security, an internationally recognised security gold standard.

  • Business continuity is a critical element of the Business Management System at MacRoberts and we hold full accreditation with the ISO 22301:2012.

  • MacRoberts is a member of IP Inclusive, a network of intellectual property professionals working to make our community more equal, diverse and inclusive.

  • We are active members of the PRIME Programme – an organisation that focuses on ensuring a career in law is open to talent from all economic and social backgrounds.

  • MacRoberts supports the Scottish Business Pledge, a values-led partnership between Government and business that is based on boosting productivity and competitiveness through fairness, equality and sustainable employment.

  • We are supporters of the Partnership for Change, a network of organisations and individuals who share a common ambition to improve diversity on boards and in senior leadership.

  • MacRoberts is a Disability Confident employer, and are committed to disability equality across our firm.

  • MacRoberts fully supports flexible working practices and supports family-friendly working practices.

  • MacRoberts became a member of the Stonewall Diversity Champions Programme in 2018.

  • MacRoberts is a member of The Glass Network, Scotland's organisation for LGBT+ allied legal professionals.
  • MacRoberts is a longstanding member of Scotland Food & Drink, the leading trade association for Scotland's food and drink industry.