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Publication schemes

Publication schemes

FOI law requires authorities to publish information as well as respond to requests. This is called the "publication scheme" duty. They must make information available to the public so that it can be accessed without having to ask for it. Authorities have to adopt a publication scheme approved by the Commissioner. They have to make available the information they have committed to publish.

All Scottish authorities have adopted the Commissioner's own Model Publication Scheme. This requires them to publish a Guide to Information that they make available.

This section of our website provides guidance and resources for authorities on publication schemes. While these materials are designed to help authorities meet their duties, they may also be useful if you are interested in access to information.

The Model Publication Scheme

The Commissioner's Model Publication Scheme and the notification form which lets the Commissioner know about new authorities' adoption of the Model Scheme.

Download the Model Publication Scheme

Download a copy of the MPS and the accompanying Guide for Authorities below.

The above documents were both updated in March 2021, however, no substantive changes were made to the MPS or the Guide for Authorities; it is the documents that were updated, rather than the MPS itself. The changes consisted of:

  • simplifying aspects of the layout of the documents
  • ensuring alignment between the two documents
  • amending outdated terminology

Therefore, no action is required by authorities in response to this update - although you should of course continue to review your Guide to Information in accordance with Section 5 of the Guide for Authorities.

Adopting the Model Publication Scheme

To adopt the Model Publication Scheme you will need to:

  1. Make a formal decision to adopt the Scheme.
  2. Identify the information your authority holds that falls into the Scheme's classes of information. Our guidance explains how to do this.
  3. Produce and publish a Guide to Information – read more about Guides to Information below.
  4. Notify the Commissioner that you have adopted the Scheme by sending us a completed Model Publication Scheme Notification Form. Once you have notified us, you do not need to do this again unless there is a substantive change in your authority.
  5. Finally, make arrangements to keep your Guide to Information up to date.

Guides to Information

Authorities adopting the Commissioner's Model Publication Scheme must publish a Guide to Information they make available (through the Scheme).

We can only provide an overview here. We strongly recommend that you read the Commissioner's Guide to the Model Publication Scheme below.

Model Publication Scheme: Guide for Scottish Public Authorities (updated March 2021)

What is a Guide to Information?

A Guide to Information is an index of information the authority publishes and it explains how to access it. It is up to the authority how it publishes its Guide and what it looks like, but:

  • it must say what information is published under each "class" of information in the Scheme, and
  • the information must be made available in a way that is consistent with the Model Publication Scheme principles.
Classes of information

There are nine classes of information in the Model Publication Scheme. They broadly describe the types of information that authorities must publish.

  • Class 1: About the authority
  • Class 2: How we deliver our functions and services
  • Class 3: How we take decisions and what we decided
  • Class 4: What we spend and how we spend it
  • Class 5: How we manage our human, physical and information resources
  • Class 6: How we procure goods and services from external providers
  • Class 7: How we are performing
  • Class 8: Our commercial publications
  • Class 9: Our open data

The Commissioner's Guide for Scottish Public Authorities provides a list of the types of information that we would expect authorities to publish under each class.

The Model Publication Scheme Principles

These principles govern how authorities must make their published information available:

  • Availability and formats: information should, wherever possible, be made available on the authority's website. There must be an alternative arrangement for people who cannot or do not want to access the information online or by visiting the authority.
  • Exempt information: authorities do not have to publish information that would be exempt under Scottish FOI law.
  • Copyright and re-use: any copyright and restrictions on re-use of published information must be explained.
  • Charges: There can be no charge to view published information except where there is a statutory fee. Any charges for providing information e.g. copies, must be published and must be set at the level it costs the authority to provide it. Authorities can charge a market value for publications sold e.g. through a retail outlet.
  • Advice and assistance: authorities must give contact details for help to find and request information.
  • Duration: once published, information should generally be available for the current and previous two years.

Maintaining a Guide to Information

FOI law requires authorities to keep their published information up to date. This is a statutory duty. It is good practice to establish regular intervals for reviewing a Guide to Information.

Helpful tips

It is quite easy, when setting up your authority's Guide, to make sure that routine information, such as minutes of committee or board meetings are published on a regular basis. Where there are routine business processes for particular documents, you can add publication to the list.

It is harder, but just as important, to make sure that new types of information are added to the Guide as they become available. One way to do this is to keep a log of news about your authority's functions, services and plans, and to use this log to identify new types of information. You may find it helpful to review minutes of meetings, in-house newsletters, press releases and information requests to identify new types. You can also ask stakeholders if there is information they would like your authority to publish.

Staff can also be trained to think about publication when they prepare information, e.g.: writing information so that it is ready for publication; marking sensitive information so it can easily be redacted at publication; and ensuring publication is considered whenever new information is approved.

Publication schemes also don't exist in a vacuum - you can, and should, add any published information to your Guide to Information, whatever the reason for publishing it. So if your authority is publishing open data or there is new legislation requiring your authority to publish information, add the new publications to your Guide.

Assessing your practice

The Commissioner's Self-Assessment Toolkit includes a specific module on publishing information, to help improve practice in this area. The module will take you through a set of steps to help you:

  1. Capture your authority's publication activity
  2. Assess how well you are performing against a set of publication standards
  3. Identify areas for improvement across your authority
Compliance monitoring

The Commissioner periodically carries out monitoring of authorities' compliance with the publication scheme duty. The research looks at compliance with different aspects of the duty, including:

  • The ease of accessing the authority's Guide to Information
  • Whether the authority's publication practice conforms with the Model Publication Scheme principles
  • Whether the authority is publishing the types of information the Commissioner expects

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