FOI staff view FOI as an important public right

FOI staff view FOI as an important public right

9 August 2022

The Scottish Information Commissioner's survey of FOI practitioners in Scotland has revealed that the majority of staff with day-to-day responsibility for FOI within public authorities view FOI as an important public right. 

In an online survey of 195 FOI practitioners in Scotland between January and February this year, 82% said they consider FOI an important public right, 12% neither agreed nor disagreed, just 4% of practitioners disagreed. In addition, 84% of practitioners disagreed with the statement that FOI “is not needed.” 68% of practitioners however agreed that FOI “puts a strain on limited resources”, 16% neither agreed nor disagreed and 12% disagreed.

Practitioners also said that they would like to see a dedicated resource for the FOI function as well as an increased profile for FOI within organisations.

Responding to the survey findings, Scottish Information Commissioner Daren Fitzhenry said:

"It is reassuring that the recognised value of FOI to transparency and accountability in public life is high among practitioners. I would like to see this number go up however, among this key group. Motivated, trained and appropriately resourced practitioners are key to strong FOI performance.  It is therefore essential that practitioners are adequately supported and the work that they do is valued within organisations.

We will continue to increase and improve our support to practitioners, and to promote the value of their work as well as the FOI function more generally within and outside their organisations. I will be providing more updates on this in the coming months."

The survey also found that confidence levels among practitioners is significantly high, with 95% of practitioners reporting they felt confident they had the right mix of skills and knowledge to carry out their role effectively.

The elements of support available to practitioners from the Commissioner’s website also received an overwhelming endorsement, with 93% of practitioners reporting that they found the website a useful element of support.

Practitioners also said they would like to see improvements to some elements of support. In particular: 

  • A more user-friendly website, with improvements to the search functionality of the decisions database (a new, improved website was launched in April 2022).
  • Additional guidance on the EIRs
  • More engagement with organisations from the Commissioner's office
  • Bespoke training sessions for new and experienced practitioners.

Scottish Information Commissioner Daren Fitzhenry added:

“I am really pleased to be able to report that the support elements we offer are highly valued by practitioners who are equally very confident about their skill and knowledge levels. This is a huge testament to the hard work and dedication of my staff.

There is more work to be done, however. We are already working to address feedback on suggested areas for improvement and recently launched our new website with a new look and improved navigation to help practitioners and members of the public easily access the information they need. Look out for additional updates on our work to further support practitioners.”