This guide explains how to use your rights to access information held by the National Records of Scotland.
- Where to Start
- How to Request Access to Your Own (Personal) Information
- Requesting Information (Other Than Personal Data)
- How You Should Word Your Request
- Will There Be a Fee?
- What Happens Next?
- Your Right to Review and Appeal
1. Where to Start
Before Making a Request
You might not need to request information, as it may already be available. We already make a large amount of information publicly available, mainly on our website. Our Guide to Information (161 KB PDF) will help you in gaining an overview as to what is available. For statistics, please 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 by using our Contact us page as we may be able to direct you to make your request to another authority who holds the information.
2. Making a Request for Information
Your information rights
Data protection law (the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018) gives you a right of access to your own personal information. Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 give you the right to request information from public authorities. If you would like to find out more about these different legislations, please see our pages on primary information legislation and secondary information legislation.
Requesting Access to Your Own (Personal) Information
General information about personal data processed by NRS can be obtained from our privacy notice.
Requests for your personal information should be made by completing and sending to us a subject access request form (145 KB PDF). You do not have to use this form and can request information orally, but it would make it easier for us to process your request. In order to ensure that you are the data subject of the information you have requested, you will also need to send us proof of your identity. Further details are provided on the subject access request 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.
If you are considering applying to the Scotland’s Redress Scheme and are searching for personal information on time spent in care in Scotland as a child, we recommend you read our guidance on records for time spent in care.
You can contact us using Contact us page or in writing: National Records of Scotland, Data Protection Officer, HM General Register House, 2 Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3YY.
Requesting Information (Other Than Personal Data)
Requests for information which is not personal data will usually fall under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. These should be made in writing (which includes email).
Requests for environmental information fall under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulation 2004 and can be made in writing or orally.
If you are unsure about what information you are looking for, whether you need to make the request in writing or how to word your request in order to make it more specific, please ask by using our Contact us page or by writing to: National Records of Scotland, Information Governance Team, HM General Register House, 2 Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3YY.
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.
3. What Happens Next?
We will aim to respond to Freedom of Information or Environmental Information Regulations requests within 20 working days. We are allowed 30 working days to respond to requests for information in closed archival records under sections 10 and 22 of FOISA. Data Protection subject access requests are processed 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 NRS or others if we released the information, and why it is not in the public interest to provide the information.
4. Your Right to Review and Appeal
Our responses will tell you how to exercise your rights to review and appeal.
If you are unhappy with how we have handled your request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act or the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations, you can ask us to 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 review 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.
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.