The Scottish Executive's Code of Practice on Access to Scottish Executive Information
(the Code of Practice) was introduced in 1999 and remained in force until 1
January this year as a precursor to the introduction of the Freedom of Information
(Scotland) Act 2002.
Nicola Sturgeon, MSP made a request to the Scottish Prison Service to release
the entire contract between the Scottish Ministers and Reliance, relating to
prisoner custody and escort procedures in Scotland. The Scottish Prison Service
removed some details from the contract, making the remainder public.
After a review of the decision not to release the contract in its entirety
under the Code of Practice, the SPS carried out a review, upholding all aspects
of the earlier decision to withhold certain contract provisions.
This prompted a request to the Scottish Information Commissioner for investigation
of whether the decision to withhold some of the information contained in the
contract breached the Code of Practice.
The SPS argued that not only was it relying on certain exemptions under
the Code of Practice to withhold information, but also it was bound by a confidentiality
clause within the contract.
The Commissioner found that the SPS did not sufficiently justify withholding
information under the terms of the Code of Practice, but nevertheless the terms
of the confidentiality clause permit it to withhold the information requested
by Ms Sturgeon.
In addition, the Commissioner expressed his dissatisfaction with the nature
of the confidentiality clause which entered into by the SPS, requiring information
contained within the contract to be withheld solely if requested by Reliance.