How much do the Scottish public know about Freedom of Information and their new rights?

A survey was carried out at the end of March 2005 and the results are reported below.

Freedom of Information gets off to a flying start

Research published today (23 May 2005) reveals that the Scottish Information Commissioner's campaign to raise public awareness of the new Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act has achieved significant results.

The research revealed that more than two thirds of Scots are now aware of the new legislation. In response to the survey carried out at the end of March, 49% of respondents said they had definitely heard of the Act, while another 20% said they thought they had. When the same question was asked 6 months earlier, before the Act came into force, only 30% said they had definitely heard of the Act, while a further 14% thought they had.

The survey was conducted during the final week of the Commissioner's TV advertising campaign, and follows the publication of a range of materials designed to raise public awareness of the Act. The media had also reported widely on the Act coming into force, and the survey results suggest that this was a contributory factor in the increased awareness.

Kevin Dunion, the Scottish Information Commissioner said:
"The indications strongly suggest that people appreciate their new freedom of information rights. Public knowledge is on the increase. Scottish public authorities are dealing with a steady flow of requests and, where they don?t get the information they want, people are confident about making appeals to me. I have just made my first formal decision, upholding a complaint by a member of the public."

The Commissioner's Office has received around 200 appeals to date, far more than had been anticipated. Of these applications, nearly half have been made by members of the general public.

The survey suggests that there is still work to be done though, as it shows that people are still uncertain of the detail of the new law. The Act's general right of access to information held by Scottish public authorities is confused by many with the individual?s right to access information about themselves provided by the Data Protection Act.

View the research here:

Freedom of Information (Public Awareness) Second Survey Report (PDF - 128 KB)

Tables of Results (PDF - 530 KB)

Tables of Results cross-referenced with awareness of the Act and of the Commissioner (PDF - 212 KB).

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