Guidance on Handling EIR Requests

Guidance on Handling EIR Requests

The Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations (EIRs) are concerned with an individual's right of access to information which relates to the environment, and is held by the University. 

The Scottish Executive’s Section 62 Code of Practice on The Discharge of Functions by Scottish Public Authorities under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 dealing with requests for environmental information provides best practice guidance on how to handle requests.

 The following provides guidance on appropriately addressing and handling EIRs at University of Glasgow.

General guidance

  • The Data Protection and Freedom of Information Office is available to give advice on any aspect of identifying and handling EIR information requests.  Only the Data Protection and Freedom of Information Office should respond to an EIR request. If you receive a request that you think may relate wholly, or in part, to the EIRs then you must contact the DP/FOI Office.
  • Written requests will, in the first instance, be handled under FOISA.  If all, or some, of the information is deemed to be "environmental" the request, or relevant section of the request, will be dealt with under the EIRs.  An appropriate S39 exemption notice will be issued to the applicant.
  • Verbal requests for environmental information will be handled under EIRs. Verbal requests for general information will not be processed, as requests under FOISA must be in a recorded format. 
  • Requests received verbally should be transcribed as soon as possible after receipt, to ensure accurate recording of the request.  An address (postal or email) and name must be taken at the time of recording the request. 
  • All EIR requests must be handled as "applicant-blind" -- the processing of the information request must be processed without considering the identity of the applicant. The identity of the applicant must not be made known to colleagues unless there is a valid reason, and the issue has been cleared with your local FOISA coordinator or the Data Protection and Freedom of Information Office.
  • Exceptions to the release of information might apply. Advice on the use of an exception must be obtained from the Data Protection and Freedom of Information Office.  Exceptions will only ever by applied by the DP/FOI Office, as they respond to all EIR requests.
  • The response to any information request where an exception to release is required, including paragraph 10(4)(a) (Information Not Held) or paragraph 6(1)(b) (Information otherwise accessible), must be passed to and handled by the Data Protection and Freedom of Information Office.
  • If the EIR request applicant is not satisfied with either the way the request was handled or with the perceived lack of information released,  he or she may request a review from the University.
  • If the applicant is not satisfied with the review, he or she may appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner. It is the policy of the Scottish Information Commissioner to publish on the web full details of each appeal and her decision.

Responding to requests

  • All requests under EIRs should be sent to the DP/FOI Office for response.
  • If the information request was submitted via email:
    • The communications with the applicant will normally be by email with any necessary attachment(s).
    • Large volume of attachments may be sent in a series of emails.
    • Paper-only copies of documents should be scanned and sent as attachments.
    • All attachments must be sent in PDF format and not as raw Word, Excel, etc files.
    • Standard template emails will be used, and any appropriate standard template letters should be attached as a PDF file.
  • If the information request was submitted via a posted letter:
    • The communications and the final response to the applicant should be in that format/media.
    • It may be preferable for cost reasons to suggest to the applicant that another format/media, such as a CD, be used.
  • If the information request was received verbally:
    • The applicant should be asked for their preferred method of response -- either posted letter or email.
    • A name and address for correspondence must be taken upon receipt of the request (see General Guidance above).

Is the request covered by DPA, FoISA, or EIRs?

  • The DPA is concerned with personal data about an individual, whilst FoISA covers general information, and EIRs cover environmental information. 
  • A comparison between DPA and FoISA Requests is available in our A to Z guide.
  • A definition of environmental information and the differences between FOISA and EIRs is also provided.
  • If the request is partially for information about the applicant, then that part of the request will be extracted and handled as a Subject Access Request under DPA.

Is it an EIR request?

  • Does the request concern the environment, as defined in the EIRs?
  • Does the request include the name of the applicant and an address (postal or email) for correspondence?
    • Note that the Scottish Information Commissioner has indicated that the applicant must give his/her real name and that the University does not have to answer the request if a false name or pseudonym has been used.
    • If the Request is by email, the applicant's name must be given in the body of the email. The name in the email address (e.g. john.smith@mailaddress.com) is not sufficient.
  • Does the request clearly describe the information required?
    • Note that only recorded information held by the University is covered, and a request for an opinion is not a valid request.
    • The reason for the request is not relevant.
    • Clarification from the applicant must be sought where it is not possible to accurately identify the information needed, from the original description provided.

What is the timescale for responding to an information request?

  • A 20 working days timescale is allowed for a response to a standard request, irrespective of the content of the request and/or whether the request is passed between colleagues.
  • For a request deemed to be complex and voluminous, and that would involve a considerable amount of work, the 20 day response time period can be extended to 40 days.
  •  
  • The 20 working day timescale starts the day after the receipt of the Request by the University.
  • A "working day" means any day other than a Saturday or Sunday, Christmas Day, or a day which is classified as a Scottish bank holiday under the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971 (c.80).
  • A request sent via email is "received" when it arrives in the University’s email system.
  • A request is not considered as received by the University, and the 20-day "clock" does not start, until any issues regarding the request (required clarification) or the applicant (name/correspondence address) are clarified.
  • An unread email is still considered to have been received by the University, and the 20 working day "clock" is already running whilst the email remains unread or is passed to a colleague for response.

Seeking clarification from the applicant

  • The applicant must be contacted to seek clarification if the request does not clearly describe the information required.
  • whilst clarification is sought from the applicant, the request is not considered as received by the University.

Should an information request be acknowledged?

  • All valid EIR information requests must be acknowledged.
  • Acknowledgement template letters and emails are available for use. These templates are designed for FOISA, but can be modified for EIR requests

What format/media should be used for the response?

  • The applicant may specify the format/media required for the response. The University must attempt to honour that specification if it is technically and financially possible.
  • See section on "Responding to requests" for more information on appropriate formats/media.

Is the information requested already available/published elsewhere?

  • If the Information is already available:
    • In the University's Publication Scheme;
    • On the University's web pages and the pages can be seen outwith the University;
    • In some other University publication, or
    • Reasonably accessible elsewhere,

then the Request can be refused under paragraph 6(1)(b) of the EIRs. 

  • If the applicant cannot access the internet, then the relevant information from the University's Publication Scheme or the University's web pages must be extracted and sent in an appropriate format/media.

Will the response to the information request be too costly?

  • See EIRs charging policy for advice and guidance on calculating potential costs for responding to requests under EIRs.
  • The Data Protection and Freedom of Information Office will issue any fees notices.
  • It may be possible to reduce the costs, by negotiation with the applicant over the scale and scope of the information request.

How is the use of EIR exceptions decided?

  • A range of exceptions may, when appropriate, be invoked to refuse to release information.  
  • All EIR requests will be handled by the DP/FOI Office, who will apply any appropriate exceptions.