27 May 2020
In April, we reported on the extension introduced by the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 to time periods for responding to freedom of information requests.
Click here to access our blog.
The Coronavirus (Scotland) (No. 2) Act 2020 has now repealed the provisions which extended the time limit for Scottish public authorities to respond from 20 to 60 working days. The effect of the No. 2 Act is to re-instate the previous requirement that public authorities respond to requests for information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 within 20 working days. Public authorities will, therefore, need to ensure that they comply with the shorter timescale.
However, the No. 2 Act does not repeal the provisions which were introduced to effectively excuse public authorities from a failure to comply with the timescales where that failure was as a result of the effects of Coronavirus and where the failure was reasonable in all the circumstances. Consequently, it remains within the Scottish Information Commissioner’s gift to find that an authority has not failed to comply, even where the deadline is missed.
It should be noted that the No. 2 Act now requires the Commissioner to treat the public interest in being provided with information to which there is a right of access, as the primary consideration when considering whether a failure to comply with the deadline is reasonable. As a result, the emphasis is once again on the right to access information.
Lynn Richmond, Partner, E: firstname.lastname@example.org / T: 0131 222 2934