Environmental Information Regulations
The Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs) provide rights similar to FOISA, for access to environmental information held by the University. The Regulations are regulated by the Scottish Information Commissioner.
A request for environmental information need not be in writing, or in any other recorded format, but if access is requested to both general and environmental information then the request must be in a recorded format. In the latter circumstances it must then be decided whether the request should be dealt with under EIRs or FoISA.
The University already publishes a great deal of information that can be accessed via its Publication Scheme.
Environmental information covers a broad range of topics, including:
- The environment itself, including air, water, earth, landscape and natural sites, flora and fauna,
- The state of human health and safety, conditions of human life, the food chain, cultural sites and built structures affected by the environment
- Affects on the environment, such as emissions, radiation, noise, waste, and other forms of pollution
- Policies, plans, measures and laws which impact the environment
- Cost benefit and other economic analyses used in environmental decision making.
Examples of environmental information are:
- levels of chlorine in swimming pools
- water-quality and air-quality test reports
- genetically modified crops
- air-conditioning systems in public buildings
EIR vs FOISA
Although the intention of both FoISA and EIRs is to allow the public access to information, there are some differences between the two legislations. The Scottish Information Commissioner has published detailed guidance on the difference between FOISA and EIRs, the key points being:
- a request for environmental information does not have to be written or submitted in another recorded format. Requests for environmental information can be made orally under EIRs;
- the 20 day time period for responding to requests can be extended to 40 days where the request is complex and voluminous and would involve a considerable amount of work;
- there is no upper or lower threshold and authorities for charging fees. The University can recover, in full, the cost of supplying the information;
- EIRs have exceptions rather than exemptions and all of these are subject to the public interest test;
- information relating to emissions has special status in the EIRs and will have to be supplied in most cases.
See EIRs – Guidance for handling Requests for Information for details of how to deal with any EIRs you might receive and advice on calculating potential costs for responding to requests under EIRs.
Any complaints concerning the handling by the University of a request for Environmental Information should be reported to the University according to the procedures, which apply to both FoISA and EIRs, displayed via the University's FoISA Complaints & Review Procedure.