Tuesday 30 October 2012

More on Glasgow City Council burial case and FOI appeal

One of the things about blogging is that you never quite know who might be reading your posts!

Following my story yesterday on the appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner that ruled against Glasgow City Council's handling of a Freedom of Information request by a gentleman to obtain details of people buried within lairs at the Eastern Necropolis in Glasgow (see http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/glasgow-city-council-loses-foi-appeal.html), I have had an email this morning from none other than the Scottish Information Commissioner's office, offering more information.

Sarah Hutchison, Head of Policy and Information, has kindly been in touch to confirm that Glasgow City Council did not in fact appeal the decision and complied with it in May of this year. She has also offered the following advice on Freedom of Information requests in Scotland:

If you or any of your readers would like more information about your rights to access information from Scottish public authorities, there’s a lot of useful information on our website at the following link: www.itspublicknowledge.info/YourRights. We also provide an enquiries service Monday to Friday, 9.00 – 5.00, Tel 01334 464610 or email enquiries@itspublicknowledge.info

As mentioned yesterday, the ruling may act to some extent as a precedent, but each request will be decided on its own merit. But God loves a trier and all that - and nothing ventured, nothing gained!

(A huge thanks to Sarah)

UPDATE: I've had an email from another reader to say that he has been advised by the Mitchell Library that Glasgow City Council's Cemeteries and Crematorium department's records for the Eastern Necropolis are at the Mitchell, currently being digitised. Once done, as announced they will be made available to the public in due course - my understanding is on ScotlandsPeople, and it won't just be the Eastern Necropolis! However, it is also my understanding that any FOI request made prior to such an arrangement being put in place must still be complied with by the council as a statutory obligation until such an arrangement is published, though I am open to correction on that. So even if it might be awkward for a body to do so, and may even take a bit longer than normal, there should still be no cost if applied for prior to this, and if the FOI request cannot be rejected.

I had an experience with FOI legislation on that front a few years back with PRONI in Belfast concerning the 1939 National ID Register for Northern Ireland. Using the procedure I secured the details of my grandparents in Belfast, but it took a while longer than normal as the records were not easily accessible, and PRONI had no publication scheme in place - it was all perfectly well negotiated along the way etc though! (PRONI could not have been more helpful if it tried!)

I have also had another experience with FOI legislation in the past with the NHSIC in England, just prior to this (and which actually inspired the PRONI application). When Guy Etchells publicised a couple of years ago that he had secured a judgement from the English Info Commissioner's Office on the 1939 National ID Register, he publicly advised that the NHSIC, which held the information, was going to put into place a publication scheme that would undoubtedly charge once up and running. Until then, they were still obliged to provide the info for free under FOI obligations if applied for. I did just that and managed to get a copy of my grandfather's cousins details from St Albans from the register at no cost. If I had waited another month it would have cost £42, as they then implemented a formal procedure to do so, but it cost me nothing more than a few minutes of time to apply using the FOI process.

So, not necessarily advocating you do so - these records will be going online in due course, and at a damned site cheaper I would imagine than £62! - but at least a bit of food for thought which may be of interest concerning other record types from other bodies that may not be on the point of being released and not covered by a formal publication scheme.


Scotland 1750-1850 - 5 weeks online Pharos course, £45.99, taught by Chris Paton from 2 NOV 2012 - see www.pharostutors.com
New book: It's Perthshire 1866 - there's been a murder... www.thehistorypress.co.uk/products/The-Mount-Stewart-Murder.aspx (from June 12th 2012)

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