Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Scotland: Aid payouts to be disclosed

The Press and Journal (Scotland) report that:"The Scottish Executive is to publicly disclose all subsidy payments made to the country's farmers for the first time in more than 40 years....But he is stopping short of the full disclosure that many had hoped for. Instead just the name of the farming business and the executive's area office which processed the payment will be disclosed.There will be no addresses of the farming businesses receiving the cash revealed, leaving it to the public and journalists to guess who is getting what."

The Scottish Executive had previously refused to release the full information (even though it had been released for England (see the Guardian story from earlier this year and the Rural Payments Agency website). The case is listed as case no. 200500841 on the Scottish ICO appeals log as "Individual agricultural support payments". The Scottsih IC has yet to make his decision.

As I understand at present the data has not been released for Wales.

The issue will arise again in 2005 when some journalists make new applications for the data under The Single Payment Scheme (SPS), this was introduced by EC Council Regulation 1782/2003, and replaced most existing crop and livestock payments from 1 January 2005 (see the Rural Payments Agency website for details). The RPA website offers this statement of intent to publish in their Data Protection Poliy: "In limited circumstances RPA may be required to release information including personal data and commercial information under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000. In particular RPA is committed to releasing information on subsidies paid under Common Agricultural Policy Schemes." A new set of FOI requests could of course be given a new interpretation in terms of the DPA angle and DEFRA/RPA could be making more explicit assurances to farmers about the release of personal data under the new subsidy regime that make a "Public interest" release harder if an explicit promise not to release individual details has been made with new knowledge of potential FOI release.

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