Awareness of Scottish freedom of information law at all-time high

Awareness of freedom of information (FOI) law in Scotland is at an all-time high, according to new figures released by the Scottish Information Commissioner.

A survey carried out earlier this year found that 9 out of 10 (91%) of Scottish adults had heard of FOI legislation, up from 85% in 2017 and 76% in 2009. However, the study also found that only 7 in 10 (71%) understood that FOI gave them a right to ask for information from public bodies.

Under FOI law, public bodies must respond promptly to the requests for information they receive. Anyone can make a request and public bodies covered by the right include the Scottish Government, local authorities, NHS bodies, the police, universities and many others.

The results of the survey - released to mark International Right to Know Day on Saturday 28th September - also show that older generations are more likely than young people to be aware of their FOI rights:

  • 81% of those over 65 said they were aware of their rights, but this dropped to just over half (53%) for those under 35
  • 47% of those under 35 said they were "not very" or "not at all" aware of their FOI rights.

Scottish public bodies reported 42,044 requests for information were made to them in the first six months of 2019, putting them on course to receive more requests this year than ever before. Just over 75% of these requests resulted in all or some of the information being released.

Freedom of information is designed to be a key tool to enable openness and transparency in the public sector. Most of those surveyed understood the general benefits of FOI:

  • Over half (59%) agreed that FOI helps people to be informed about public bodies' decision-making
  • Almost two thirds (62%) agreed that FOI helps to uncover bad practice
  • Just under half (45%) agreed that FOI holds public bodies to account for their spending decisions.

Daren Fitzhenry, Scottish Information Commissioner, said:

"It is encouraging that more Scots than ever are aware of the existence of freedom of information law. It is also clear to me that there is some work to do to ensure that people - particularly young people - understand their rights under FOI.

"Freedom of information helps people get involved in decisions that affect them. It also holds the public sector to account on the decisions they make and the money they spend.

"The message this Right to Know Day is simple: If you want to access public information, you have a right to know."


Notes to editors

International Right to Know Day is observed worldwide on 28 September each year and it aimed at raising public awareness of the right of access to governmental information.

The Commissioner and his staff are available for interview on 26 and 27 September.

Survey methodology

Results are based on a survey of 1,392 respondents designed by Mark Diffley Consultancy and Research Ltd and conducted using the ScotPulse online panel. Fieldwork was conducted between 12st and 29th May 2019. Results were weighted to the Scottish population by gender and age. Note - previous surveys differ slightly in methodology. Previous polling was conducted by telephone omnibus and 2019 was online.

Polling data can also be cut into three regions:

  • West Central - 80% had heard of the FOI Act and 70% were aware of their rights to ask for information from public bodies
  • East Central - 95% had heard of the FOI Act and 74% were aware of their rights
  • North - 90% had heard of the FOI Act and 68% were aware of their rights

Authority request data

Scottish public authorities submit quarterly statistical data to the Commissioner. This includes information on the number of requests received, the proportion answered within statutory timescales, the number of requests refused and the reasons for refusal. Statistics can be downloaded at any time at Regional statistical data (e.g. local authorities and NHS boards) is also available on request.

About the Scottish Information Commissioner

The Scottish Information Commissioner is the independent public official responsible for promoting and enforcing Scotland's freedom of information (FOI) law. The Commissioner is the appeal body for FOI requests made to Scottish public bodies. He also monitors authorities' FOI practice and makes interventions to remedy concerns. The Commissioner promotes FOI rights to the public through advice and training, and encourages public authorities to develop good FOI practice.

Polling results tables (Excel - 134 KB)

Images of the Commissioner and logos are also available for download.

A polling infographic and an FOI Did you know? are also available to download


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