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Scottish Government Intervention Report




Intervention 201702106: Scottish Government


Implementation phase

This intervention is currently in the implementation phase. The Scottish Government has implemented the agreed action plan (read more about this below) and is publishing progress updates and supporting information on its own website. The Commissioner is monitoring the implementation.

Throughout the implementation period, the Government continues to provide the Commissioner with monthly statistics for its compliance with the statutory timescales.

At the end of the implementation phase, the Commissioner intends to carry out a further assessment of the Government's FOI practice to ensure that the desired improvements have been achieved.  This assessment will be undertaken during Summer 2020, and will inform a decision about whether the intervention can be closed or further action is required.

A second progress report will be published following this assessment.

Initial Progress Report 

On 29 July 2019, the Commissioner published a Progress Report (available to download below). He reported that the implementation of the action plan is ongoing and the full benefits will not be realised until completion of the associated programme of work. Following completion of the work programme this, and a period of time for the changes to bed in, the Commissioner will carry out a further assessment to determine the extent to which his recommendations have been met and whether the work carried out has resulted in the anticipated improvements in practice.

PDF iconScottish Government Intervention: Progress Report, July 2019


Action planning phase

The action planning phase of an intervention focuses on achieving a clear understanding of the outcomes that need to be delivered to meet the Commissioner's recommendations There is often discussion between the Commissioner and the public authority before a final plan is agreed.

In this intervention, the Scottish Government provided its first draft action plan to the Commissioner on 13 September 2018. The Commissioner provided his comments on the draft on 9 October 2018. The Scottish Government provided a final draft to the Commissioner on 30 October 2018, and on 8 November 2018, the Commissioner agreed this version, with one amendment. You can download the Commissioner's correspondence and the final action plan below.

PDF icon Commissioner's comments on first draft action plan 9 September 2018

PDF icon Commissioner's agreement of the action plan 08 November 2018

 PDF iconFinal version Scottish Government Action Plan


Intervention Report: Assessment Phase

 On 13 June 2018 the Commissioner published his report following the assessment phase of his intervention into the Scottish Government's FOI practice and performance. The full report is available to download below.

The report details the findings of the Commissioner's extensive assessment. These include:

  • It is an important principle of FOI law that, in most cases, it should not matter who asks for information. The practice of referring requests for clearance by Ministers simply because they come from journalists, MSPs and researchers is inconsistent with that principle.
  • The Scottish Government's FOI policies and procedures are not clear enough about the role of special advisers in responding to FOI requests.
  • The Scottish Government takes longer to respond to journalists' FOI requests than other requests, but in only one case did the Commissioner find evidence that delay was deliberate.
  • The Scottish Government's FOI practice has improved significantly over the last year, following the Commissioner's first intervention: average response times to all requests, including journalists' requests have reduced.
  • The Commissioner makes seven recommendations for further specific improvements to: clearance procedures; quality assurance of FOI responses; training; case handling and case records management; monitoring FOI requests and review procedures.

This assessment included:

  • Statistical analysis of data from 7,318 FOI requests received by the Scottish Government between December 2014 and December 2017
  • Inspection of 104 individual Scottish Government FOI case files
  • Examination of 87 appeals to the Commissioner about the Scottish Government's handling of FOI requests
  • Review of the Scottish Government's FOI guidance and procedures
  • Face-to-face interviews with 31 Scottish Government officials and four Cabinet Secretaries.

The Commissioner requires the Scottish Government to develop an action plan (for his approval) by 13 September 2018. The Commissioner will monitor and review the implementation of the action plan.

Read the Report:

 Scottish Government Intervention - Intervention Report (PDF - 321 kB)PDF icon

Responses to requests for information

Below are responses to requests for information received following publication of the report.

Date of response

Requested information

Download the response

 13 Nov 2018  A list of the cases that may be discussed during interviews PDF icon Request 201801784
 12 July 2018 Interview notes (and drafts) PDF icon Request 201801010
 12 July 2018 Versions of the report sent to the Scottish Government ahead of publication and related correspondence. PDF icon  Request 201801074


In November 2017 the Commissioner confirmed that he would be undertaking a further intervention into the Scottish Government's FOI performance. The Commissioner's letter to the Minister for Parliamentary Business provides background to the intervention.

Invitation to journalists to provide further information

On 13 December 2017, the Commissioner issued the invitation below to the signatories of a letter sent by journalists in May 2017 to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body. He invited them to provide further evidence to help him frame accurately the assessment phase of the intervention.

The invitation provides useful information about the scope of the intervention and a list of the questions the assessment phase will focus on.

PDF icon

 Invitation to provide further evidence

We will publish a summary of the responses to this invitation as soon as possible after the closing date for submissions (12 January 2018).

Terms of the intervention

The Commissioner wrote to the Minister on 2 February 2018 to set out the aims of the intervention, the methodology for the assessment phase and the questions the intervention will explore. 

The assessment phase is due to begin at the end of February 2018.

PDF icon  2018 02 02 Commissioner's letter to Minister for Parliamentary Business 


Correspondence about the intervention

On 8 February 2018 Tavish Scott MSP wrote to the Commissioner about the intervention. You can read the exchange of correspondence below.

PDF icon 2018 02 08 Letter from Tavish Scott MSP to Commissioner

PDF icon 2018 02 15 Letter from Commissioner to Tavish Scott MSP


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