This guide explains how to use your rights to access information held by the National Records of Scotland.
Where to Start
Before Making a Request
You might not need to request information, as it may well already be available. We already make a large amount of information publicly available, mainly on our website which has a number of publications and statistical information, but if you prefer to have it in printed format this is usually possible on request from the relevant area. Use our contact form or phone us on 0131 334 0380 or for statistics contact Statistical Customer Services.
Are we the right people to request information from?
It may be that you are seeking information that we simply do not have, relating to the functions or work of another authority, or that we only hold on someone else's behalf. If you are unsure if this is the case before you make a request please ask, as we may be able to direct you to make your request to another authority who holds the information.
Legislation Covering Requests for Information
Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002
The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act gives you the right to request information and for it to be given to you unless there are good reasons not to. For more information about the Act see our Freedom of Information page.
Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004
The Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations give you the right to request information about the environment and for it to be made available unless there are good reasons not to.
General Data Protection Regulation
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) give you a right of access to the information we hold about you, as well as other supplementary information which will help you understand how and why we are using your data, and enable you to check that we are doing it lawfully. For more information refer to our Data Protection page.
What's the Difference Between the Legislation?
If you are seeking your own personal information, your request will be treated as a 'subject access request' under the GDPR.
Otherwise, requests for information will be covered by either the Freedom of Information Act or the Environmental Information Regulations.
Further information about this information legislation is available on our Freedom of Information and Data Protection pages.
How to Request Information
For statistics, please contact Statistical Customer Services.
Freedom of Information requests should be made in writing (which includes email).
Requests for environmental information can be made in writing or orally.
Requests for your personal information should be made by completing and sending to us a subject access request form (184 KB PDF). You will also need to send us proof of your identity. Further details are provided on the form.
Please note that a separate application process must be followed to request a certificate (or official extract) of your personal information in the statutory birth, marriage, adoption, divorce, civil partnership and dissolution registers. For more information see our page How to obtain an official extract from our records.
You can contact us by email, phone: 0131 334 0380 or in writing: National Records of Scotland, Business Management Unit, HM General Register House, 2 Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3YY.
Advice and Assistance
If you are unsure about what information you are looking for, or about how to word your request in order to make it more specific, please ask. If we receive a request and do not understand it or think we need more information from you to identify and locate the requested information then we will contact you.
How You Should Word Your Request
Please be specific about the information that you are looking for. It helps us to identify what you require and answer your request more promptly. For example, does a specific date or time period apply? Are there any references you can give that will help us to identify the information - such as how did you find out about the topic or information you are seeking?
While you do not have to explain why you want the information, if you are happy to do this it may help us to answer your request more satisfactorily.
Will There Be a Fee?
We do not charge for making requests or for providing information under Freedom of Information or the Environmental Information Regulations, but we will refuse to deal with a request where we estimate that it will cost more than £600 to locate, retrieve and provide the information.
If you can be as precise as possible about the information you are seeking, it will help to keep your request within this cost limit. Requests for specific information are less likely to exceed this cost limit and can be answered much more quickly than requests for 'all information' on a subject.
Splitting up a single request in to many related requests in order to deliberately avoid this cost limit will not necessarily ensure that your requests do not in fact exceed the cost limit.
There is no fee for making a subject access request. Where, however, the request is manifestly unfounded or excessive we may charge a reasonable fee for the administrative costs of complying with the request.
What Happens Next?
We will aim to respond to Freedom of Information or Environmental Information Regulations requests within 20 working days and Data Protection subject access requests within one month.
Understanding Our Response
We will provide you with the information you have requested where we can. Where this has not been possible, we will explain why.
We may not be able to provide information because:
- We do not hold it
- It exceeds the cost limit
- The request is vexatious or repeated.
- Exemptions/exceptions apply. The Freedom of Information Act and the Environmental Information Regulations expressly recognise that some information cannot be provided. There are therefore a number of exemptions (or in the case of Environmental Information, exceptions) that may apply to information you have requested. The Data Protection Act 2018 also provides for exemptions from disclosure.
- Some exemptions are 'absolute', which means that if the information falls within a particular category, it will not be provided. However, most exemptions require us to explain to you why there will be 'substantial prejudice, harm, or inhibition' to the NRS or others if we released the information, and why it is not in the public interest to provide the information.
Your Right to Review and Appeal
If we have handled your request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act or the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations, our response will always advise you who you should contact to request that we carry out an internal review of our response. Tell us why you are unhappy with our response within 40 working days, and it will be looked at afresh. We will aim to provide you with our review response within 20 working days.
If you remain unhappy with our response, you then have the right to appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner. You should keep copies of all the correspondence you have had with us, as if you decide to appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner you will be asked to provide these.
The Scottish Information Commissioner
St Andrews, Fife
Telephone: 01334 464610
If you are unhappy with our response to a subject access request you have the right to report your concerns to the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). For more information visit the ICO website.