Please be specific about the information that you are looking for. This helps us to identify what you require and answer it more promptly.
While you do not have to explain why you want the information, if you are happy to do so, it may assist us in answering your request more satisfactorily.
Charging a fee
We do not currently charge for providing information under the freedom of information legislation or environmental regulations. However, the option to charge for photocopying costs is available to us - please see the Publication Scheme.
We will decline to deal with a request where we estimate that it will cost more than £600 to locate, retrieve and provide the information. This limit is contained in Freedom of Information Regulations. If you can be precise about the information you require, this will help to keep the request within the cost limit.
Advice and assistance
If we receive a request and need further clarification before we can answer it, we will contact you. We will be unable to start the time period for response until we receive your reply.
Timescales for reply
The Freedom of Information legislation requires public authorities to respond within 20 working days. While we always strive to achieve this target, there are occasions when it is not possible to meet the deadline. We aim to advise you whenever there is likely to be a significant delay.
The Environmental Information Regulations provide the same deadline, but do allow us to extend this up to 40 working days if a request is complex or involves large amounts of information.
Information that we cannot provide
We encourage openness and transparency. We will provide you with the information you have requested when we can. When this has not been possible we will explain why.
Sometimes we are unable to provide the information requested because we do not hold it. If we know of another authority which might be in a position to assist you, we will provide you with contact details.
Where complying with the request would exceed the cost limit, we will decline to deal with the request – see Charging a Fee (above).
We will decline to respond to vexatious or repeated requests. We will also decline to respond to requests which are deliberately burdensome or frivolous or which seek to disrupt our work. Similarly, if you make a request which is the same or substantially similar to a previous request it will be refused if a reasonable amount of time has not elapsed since the first request.
Information which we will not provide
The freedom of information legislation and the Environmental Information Regulations expressly recognise that some information should not be provided. There are a number of exemptions (or exceptions in the case of Environmental Information) that may apply to the information you have requested.
Some exemptions are 'absolute', which means that if the information falls within a particular category we will not be able to give it to you. However, most exemptions require us to explain why there will be 'substantial prejudice, harm or inhibition' to us or others if we released the information, and why it is not in the public interest to provide the information.
Given the nature of our work, not all of the information we hold can be provided for sound public policy reasons. While each request is considered on its own merits, it may be helpful to know that the following list provides examples of information that we will be unlikely to provide to you as the information will fall within one or more of the exemptions set out in the freedom of information legislation.
Any aspect of a criminal investigation which may prejudice or bar future criminal proceedings. Confidential police reports and other case-related records. Information provided by witnesses or victims, including witness statements, as this is regarded as their own personal information or sensitive data within the meaning of the Data Protection Act 1998. It is important to ensure that witnesses and people under investigation should not be inhibited or deterred from co-operating in criminal investigations by the possibility that information provided may be disclosed and their identity revealed to the public without the protection of the court. Information relating to intelligence or security matters. Legal advice given during consideration of legal proceedings.
If COPFS holds the copyright, information may be copied or reproduced without formal permission, provided that: it is copied or reproduced accurately; it is not used in a misleading context; and, the source of the material is identified. We will make it clear if COPFS does not hold the copyright.
Right to Review and Appeal
If we have handled your request under FOISA or the Environmental Information Regulations our response will advise you who you should contact to request that we carry out an internal review of our response. If you wish to request a review, you should tell us why you are unhappy with the response within 40 days of receipt of the reply. We will aim to provide you with our review response within 20 working days.
If you remain unhappy with our response, then under FOISA you have a general right to appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner. You should keep copies of all the correspondence you have had with us as if you decide to appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner as you will be asked to provide these.
However, under section 48 of FOISA no application may be made to the Commissioner for a decision, under section 48 b) where a review has been carried out by a Procurator Fiscal; or under section 48 c) the Lord Advocate to the extent that the information requested is held by the Lord Advocate as head of the systems of criminal prosecution and investigation of deaths in Scotland. This also applies under the Environmental Information Regulations (EIRs), where the section 48 b) and c) of FOISA should be read with regulation 17 of the EIRs
The Scottish Information Commissioner can be contacted at:
Telephone: 01334 464610