The Scottish Information Commissioner - It's Public Knowledge
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Common questions from the voluntary sector

Question Mark IconOur Your Rights pages provide information on how you can make use of your FOI rights.

Below we also answer some of the other questions that we are asked by voluntary sector staff.



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Are voluntary organisations covered by FOI?

Voluntary sector and community organisations are not subject to FOI law. FOI currently applies only to Scottish public authorities, trusts set up by local authorities to run cultural and leisure services, and the companies that are wholly-owned by public authorities. Requests received by voluntary organisations will not, therefore, qualify as FOI requests, and there will be no legal duty to respond.

This does not mean, of course, that voluntary organisations should not respond to the requests for information they receive, just that there is no legal obligation to do so, and no right of appeal if the requester is unhappy with the response.

We are sometimes asked whether organisations that receive funding from Scottish public authorities will be covered by FOI. The answer is also no. As above, unless the body in question is a public authority, or wholly-owned by a public authority, it won't be covered. Information requests may, however, be made to the public authority that provides the funding, and it would be the duty of that organisation to respond to those requests - but only in terms of the relevant information that the organisation holds.

While voluntary organisations are not covered by FOI, they will have legal responsibilities under the Data Protection Act if they hold personal data. For more information on this, visit


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Is FOI likely to be extended in future?

The FOI Act was extended to cover bodies set up by local authorities to run cultural and leisure services from April 2014. The issue of whether FOI should be extended is continuing to be considered by the Scottish Government. To date, the focus of the debate has primarily been on whether housing associations and contractors who provide significant public services (e.g. contractors providing prison services) should be brought within the scope of FOI. 


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Do I have to identify myself as a member of a voluntary organisation when requesting information?

No, The FOI Act only requires that you provide a name and an address for correspondence (email or postal). You can, if you wish, choose to identify yourself as representing a voluntary organisation. In some cases it may help the authority understand and respond to your request if you do, but you should be aware that there is no legal obligation to do so.


Question Mark buttonCan a voluntary organisation make a request on behalf of a client?

Yes, there is nothing to stop anyone making a request on behalf of another person. However, information requests must contain the name of the person on whose behalf the request is made, in order for the request to be valid.


If your question hasn't been answered on this page, try our .  You can also contact us to discuss any issue relating to FOI.

Find out more...


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 Voluntary sector homepage - Return to our homepage for the voluntary sector.

User experience buttonUser experiences - Learn about real-life examples where voluntary sector staff and campaigners have used FOI to help achieve their goals.

Button tickHints and tips - Read our hints and tips on how voluntary organisations can get the most out of FOI.

Padlock IconYour Rights - Explore our practical guidance on how to make an FOI request - and what to do if you don't get what you're looking for.







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