Public awareness of freedom of information is high - but some groups may be lagging behind, warns Commissioner

Research published on 19 November 2007 by the Scottish Information Commissioner has revealed that public awareness of freedom of information (FOI) remains high, with 74% of those surveyed reporting that they were aware of the law. However, the report also indicated that awareness may be lower within particular groups, including young people, the elderly and people with disabilities.

The research, which was carried out by Progressive Scottish Opinion as the fifth wave of the Commissioner annual public awareness survey, also found that:

  • 64% of respondents believed that Scottish public authorities were becoming more open and accountable as a result of FOI;
  • 69% felt that more information was available from public authorities than ever before;
  • 69% felt that Scottish public authorities are more open and accountable than their equivalents in the rest of the UK;
  • 57% nevertheless believed that public authorities would find a way round their FOI responsibilities if they didn't want to provide information.

The study also revealed that the majority of respondents (73%) who reported having made an FOI request to a public authority received all of the information they had asked for.

Kevin Dunion, the Scottish Information Commissioner said:

"The findings are heartening and suggest that awareness of the right to information is becoming embedded in the public consciousness. However I am concerned that awareness may be lower within those groups who may well have most cause to use freedom of information rights such as young people, the elderly and those with disabilities.

"Scotland's FOI rights are available to all, and it is important that every sector of society - and particularly the most vulnerable - can exercise them. Access to information can be a powerful tool in helping to change an individual's circumstances. We need to ensure that all groups in society are fully aware of their rights."

The research report and raw data sets can be downloaded below:

Public Awareness Research Report 2007 (PDF - 238KB)

Public Awareness Research 2007 Data Sets (PDF - 791KB)

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