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Public Awareness Research 2019

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

A survey carried out in May 2019 by online panel ScotPulse of 1,392 Scottish adults, showed that 9 out of 10 (91%) had heard of FOI legislation, up from 85% in 2017. However, the study also found that only 7 out of 10 (71%) understood that FOI gave them a right to ask for information from public bodies.

The results of the survey also show that older generations are more likely than younger people to be aware of their FOI rights:

  • 81% of those aged 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.

Most of those surveyed generally understood the 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.

The survey also revealed a lack of trust in authorities' ability to respond to requests:

  • Only 57% were “very” or “fairly confident” they would receive a response from a request to information from a public body 
  • 38% were “not very” or “not at all confident” they would receive a response.

Public bodies have a legal duty to respond to requests within 20 working days.

Survey respondents generally agreed that it was "extremely" or "very" important for public bodies to publish information about:

  • how they spent their money (85%)
  • the reasons for the decisions they make (80%)
  • information on the contracts they have with other organisations (74%)
  • information on how they deliver their functions and services (79%).

Finally, 80% of survey respondents agreed that private sector companies who work on contracts for public bodies should be subject to the same FOI laws as public bodies.

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 21st and 29th may 2019. Results were weighted to the Scottish population by gender and age. A regional breakdown (West Central, East Central and North) is also available.

Download the full results tables:

Public Awareness Research 2019 full results (151 KB)Excel File

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