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Duty to Respond150pxlCovid-19 and FOI: Requesting information


Covid-19 FOI Update

In response to the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic, the Scottish Parliament has passed emergency legislation, the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020, which makes temporary changes in a number of areas, including freedom of information (FOI). Further changes were made with effect from 27 May 2020.

The changes to FOI are designed to recognise that many public sector organisations are currently facing challenges as a result of the pandemic – for example due to staff absences, office closures, or increased demand for services such as health and social care. However, for the most part, requesting information under FOI will continue as normal.

FOI law in Scotland during the Covid-19 pandemic

  • Despite recent changes to FOI law, you still have the right to request information from Scottish public authorities, and to receive it (with only a very limited number of exceptions).
  • Authorities must still respond to requests for information promptly, and in no more than 20 working days.
  • If you are unhappy with the response, or the way the authority has dealt with your request, you can still ask them to carry out a review, and the same timescales apply to these requests.
  • Under FOI law, authorities also have a duty to publish as much information as possible, so that people can access that information without having to make a request.    

Law Icon Read more about the temporary changes to the FOI Act >>>

Asking for information during the Covid-19 pandemic

Freedom of information is an important tool for ensuring that Scottish public authorities are accountable for the work they do and the decisions they make. The FOI principles of openness and transparency are key in helping to retain and strengthen public trust. The "right to information" provided by FOI therefore remains critically important during the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, when planning a request for information, you may wish to consider the effects of the pandemic on the authority. There are ways in which you can reduce the impact of a request while still accessing the information you need. For example:

  • Think about whether your request can be narrowed down to help speed up the response. Our Tips for Requesters page has lots of advice that can help with this.
  • Remember, FOI law also requires that public bodies publish lots of information about their work – including information on the decisions they make, the services they provide, their policies and procedures and the money they spend. Take a look at their website before making a request – the information you need might be just a few clicks away.
  • Authorities also have a duty to provide advice and assistance to people seeking access to information – before and after the request is made. If appropriate, consider contacting the authority if there is something you're unsure of or to ask if they already publish the information you are looking for.

Duty to Advise150pxl Read answers to some frequently asked questions about Covid-19 and FOI >>>

Further information

Duty to Advise150pxlCovid-19 and FOI: Your questions answered >>>

Hub IconCovid-19 and FOI: Information hub >>>

Law IconThe Covid-19 emergency changes to FOI law in Scotland  >>>

News IconLatest news on FOI during the Covid-19 pandemic >>>

We will continue to update the information on these pages as the situation changes and new information becomes available.

Our office is currently closed but if you have an urgent query please contact us.

This page was last updated on 27 May 2020.

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