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Crowd of PeopleAwareness of freedom of information continues to grow

18 December 2008

 Research published by the Scottish Information Commissioner has revealed that public awareness of freedom of information (FOI) is higher than ever before, with 78% of the Scottish population reporting that they have heard of the law. This contrasts with a baseline figure of 44% in 2004, when the Commissioner's annual public awareness monitoring began.

However, the research, which was undertaken on behalf of the Commissioner by Progressive Scottish Opinion, also found that the number of people who believe that Scotland's public authorities are becoming more open and accountable as a result of FOI has decreased, from 64% in 2007 to 59% in 2008.

Commenting on the findings, the Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion, said:

"It is extremely encouraging to learn that there is not only a high level of awareness of freedom of information amongst the Scottish public, but also that 67% of the public consider that FOI rights are useful to them. However it is perhaps too much to expect that the relatively new right to information provides sufficient reassurance that authorities have become more open and accountable, especially given the many factors which can affect public trust. Clearly there is still work to be done to improve the performance of public authorities and build public confidence."

Ends

For further information contact the Commissioner's Media Team on 01334 464610, out of hours on 07976 511752, or email media@itspublicknowledge.info.

Notes to Editors:

The Research Report:

  • The research was conducted on behalf of the Commissioner by Progressive Scottish Opinion. A representative sample of 1002 respondents were interviewed by telephone between 14 and 25 October 2008. The report was published on 10 December 2008, and is available here.

Other findings of the research included:

    • People with disabilities continue to have lower levels of awareness of their FOI rights than those without disabilities.
    • The proportion of those who agreed that FOI was useful to them increased from 62% in 2007 to 67% in 2008.
    • The number of people who have submitted an FOI request to a public authority has remained static since 2007, at 9%.
    • Awareness of the Scottish Information Commissioner has increased to 21% from 14% in 2007.
    • There remains some confusion amongst respondents between the right to general information under the FOI legislation, and the right to their own personal information under the Data Protection Act 1998.

The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002:

  • The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 provides a statutory right of access to all information held by Scottish public authorities. This right came into effect on 1 January 2005.
  • Around 10,000 public authorities in Scotland are covered by the Act. They include the Scottish Parliament and Government, police forces, the NHS, local authorities, education institutions, and publicly owned companies.
  • Information can only be withheld by a public authority if it falls under one of the exemptions listed in the Act.
  • If an individual believes an authority is wrong to withhold information, there is a right of appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner, who can order release.

The Scottish Information Commissioner:

  • Kevin Dunion the Scottish Information Commissioner is a fully independent public official, appointed by the Queen on the nomination of the Scottish Parliament.
  • His role actively promotes and enforces compliance with the freedom of information legislation.
  • Since 2005, the Commissioner has issued over 700 formal decisions under the FOI Act.

 

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