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New FOI opinion polling results released

New FOI opinion polling results released

Research illustrates strong public support for transparency

More than three quarters of people in Scotland think public bodies should publish information about their spending, decision-making and service delivery, according to new research by the Scottish Information Commissioner.

Over 80% of those surveyed also said it's either 'very' or 'extremely' important that privately-run but publicly-funded health and social care services are subject to freedom of information (FOI) law.

The proportion of people who said they had heard of FOI remains very high, at 89%, while 63% said they were fully or moderately aware of their rights to ask for information from Scottish public bodies.

Though these numbers are high by international standards, the latter figure has dropped by 8 percentage points since the last poll, conducted in May 2019 - before the pandemic (although the proportion who said they were 'fully aware' is unchanged at 21%).

Commenting on the findings, Scottish Information Commissioner Daren Fitzhenry said:

"The events of the last two years have highlighted the importance of transparency in how public bodies make decisions, and this is reflected in our research.

"However, it is essential that members of the public are aware of their rights to access public information on the issues that matter to them. We will continue to work to increase knowledge and understanding of these important rights, and people's confidence in using them. Freedom of information is for everyone."

More information

The poll was carried out using the ScotPulse online survey platform in the week beginning 14 February 2022, with the results from the 1,433 responses by people aged 16 or over weighted to be representative of the population of Scotland.

The research explored:

  • Overall awareness of freedom of information
  • Methods people use to find information about public bodies
  • How often people use their rights to access information
  • Confidence in requesting and receiving information
  • Perceptions of the value and impact of FOI
  • The importance of publishing certain types of information
  • What services of types of bodies should be covered by FOI
Other findings

The results show that just under half of people in Scotland are confident of getting a reply if they ask a public body for information, while a similar proportion agree that FOI helps people be informed - both of these are lower than in 2019.

In a new area of research for the Commissioner's office, the survey showed that public authority websites are where people most commonly go when seeking information about that organisation (59% chose this option, either alone or alongside others).

However, the 16-34 age group was an exception,with internet search engines their preferred method (73%), and social media (21%) also much more commonly used by younger adults than others.

Daren Fitzhenry added:

"There is a wealth of information and insights contained within the results of this research, which will be invaluable in informing the work of my office, as well as potential improvements in FOI law and practice, in the years to come.

"It is vital to continue to monitor the public's views, perceptions and expectations in relation to FOI, and I look forward to seeing how these continue to evolve as we emerge from the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic."