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Interventions Procedures

Interventions Procedures

As part of the Scottish Information Commissioner's duty to enforce freedom of information (FOI), the Commissioner and their staff carry out interventions in cases where a Scottish public authority is failing to meet the requirements and standards set out in FOI legislation and the Scottish Ministers' Codes of Practice.

Our Approach and Procedures

What interventions are

Our intervention procedures describe how those interventions are carried out, including:

  • how and on what basis decisions to intervene are made;
  • how we communicate with the authority and what we ask of them; and
  • how we evaluate and report on the improvements made.

Interventions can vary from a recommendation or requirement to take particular remedial action, through to a detailed audit of processes, practice and culture. The level of intervention depends on:

  • whether the practice failure is deemed minor or more significant;
  • whether the failure is relatively short-term or recurring; and
  • whether the causes can be easily rectified or are more systemic.

Many interventions are initiated following routine analysis of quarterly statistics submitted by authorities via the Commissioner's online statistics portal. This analysis highlights trends such as rates of late responses to requests for information and/or requests for review, as well as unusual patterns in the use of certain exemptions and other provisions.

An intervention may also be opened as a result of us being made aware - through an investigation or contact from a third party - of failures in authority practice. For example, these failures can be in relation to: publication schemes, searches for information, use of exemptions, content of notices, provision of advice and assistance, or the conduct of reviews.

The purpose of interventions

The primary intention of interventions is not to penalise authorities for poor practice, but to support them in improving their performance, including by identifying and resolving or overcoming any internal issues within the public authority that are impacting on that performance.

However, where an authority fails to take appropriate action or to achieve a target outcome, the Commissioner has the power to issue formal practice recommendations and/or enforcement notices.

We will publish information periodically about the interventions we undertake, and once an intervention is closed, will ensure appropriate learning points are made available for other authorities to benefit from where possible.

As stated in our Strategic Plan 2020-24, although our capacity to carry out interventions may fluctuate depending on resource availability and the volume of appeals we receive, they are a proportionate, efficient and effective way of resolving identified FOI practice failures. Interventions represent proactive enforcement, with the aim of improving practice not just in one case but across the board, and are essential to achieving many of our Strategic Objectives.

If you have any questions about our approach to interventions or the content of the Procedures, please contact us.