Freedom of Information

The aim of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 is to increase openness and accountability in government and across the public sector by giving people the right to access information held by Scottish public authorities. From 1 January 2005, anyone, anywhere can make a request for information held by the Council and will be entitled to receive it, provided that no exemptions apply.

The Council publishes lots of information routinely. In our publication scheme, we are committed to publish certain classes of information as a matter of course, without you having to make a specific request for it. Much of this is available on this website, for example minutes and papers for the Council’s committee meetings.

You can find details on information that the Council already publishes in the Publication Scheme.

For very good reasons, such as cost, we cannot publish everything. Some information is exempt by law from disclosures for good reasons.

If you want information, which you think we have in recorded form and have not published, you can make an information request.

Why do we need a Freedom of Information Act in Scotland? What difference will it make?
The Act gives everyone the right to access the wealth of information that is held by Scottish public authorities. It will help to increase the accountability of public bodies, breaking down a culture of official secrecy and making sure that public bodies look outward to the needs and aspirations of the individuals and communities that they are there to serve.

What does the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 do and what effect will it have?
The Act introduces a general statutory right of access to all types of recorded information of any age held by Scottish public authorities. Subject to certain conditions and exemptions, any person who makes a request to a public authority for information will be entitled to receive it.

What rights do I have to find out what information the Council keeps about me personally?
You have rights under the Data Protection Act 1998 to access your personal information held by the Government and other organisations. The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 will not change these rights. Nor will it require the disclosure of personal information about you to others without your consent.

How can I make a request for information?
Making a request for information is straightforward. All you will need to do is make your application in writing, or in some other format which can be kept for reference, describing as fully as possible the information that you are looking for, and giving your name and address for correspondence. You do not need to give reasons for your request or even mention that it is a Freedom of Information request. You can make a request online. Alternatively, you may:

  • hand in a request to a member of staff in any Council office
  • post a request to Freedom of Information, The City of Edinburgh Council, Chesser House, 500 Gorgie Road, Edinburgh, EH6 3RT
  • fax this request to 0131 200 2341
  • e-mail your request to Freedom of Information
  • telephone 0131 200 2340.

How much will I have to pay to get the information I want?
If your request is reasonably straightforward there will be no charge. However, where the cost of locating and retrieving the information is considerable, we can ask you to pay a small charge.

Will the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 mean I can get hold of any documents I want?
The Council will publish documents as described in our publication scheme as a matter of course. We shall also respond to requests for information, which is "unpublished", on a case-by-case basis, taking into account your right of access and any exemptions that may apply.

What are the main reasons the council may withhold information?
Certain types of information held by the Council may be regarded as exempt information ie it would not have to be provided in response to an individual request. The Act sets out a number of such categories, relating to matters such as commercial interests, investigations of a crime or personal information.

Who has the final say on whether I can have the information I have asked for?
If you are dissatisfied with our response to a request for information, you must first ask us to review our decision. If you are still dissatisfied, then you can appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner who has the power to order us to disclose the information.

How long will I have to wait for the information I have requested?
Under the Act, we must reply within 20 working days of receiving your request. If we have asked you to provide further information to help identify and locate the requested information, the 20-day period starts when we receive that further information. The 20-day period does not include any time between our requesting a fee from you and that fee being received by us.

Can I choose how I want the information to be given to me?
Yes. We will provide the information in the form you prefer, if it is reasonably practicable to do so. The Act lists three means by which you may ask for information to be provided:

  • a copy, in permanent form or some other form acceptable to you
  • a summary or digest
  • an opportunity to inspect a record containing the information.
     
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