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What can I ask for?

What can I ask for?

You can ask for any information from a Scottish public authority. It doesn't matter how old the information is, or how it's stored - as long as it is recorded in some form. That includes documents, spreadsheets, emails, messages, and even photos and videos.

You can use your rights to ask for all sorts of information, such as:

  • Why decisions affecting local services have been made, such as a decision to cut some services at your local hospital, or to combine nearby schools
  • How authorities decide which roads to repair, or who should receive funding

Or you may want to find out about:

  • The contract under which a private company is providing a service for a Scottish public authority, such as a care home service, or details of any agreed standards that the service must meet.
  • Studies carried out before decisions are taken, for instance on the safety of vaccines or medicines.

Other examples of information you can ask for include:

  • The number of complaints about a particular issue, for example bullying at school or bin collections, and whether action was taken as a result
  • Information showing whether public authority policies are working well. For example, is a community policing initiative reducing crime in the local area?
  • Information that would reveal whether a contract is providing value for money. For example, what standards have been agreed with agencies contracted to supply hospital cleaning or catering services?

Remember that FOI only applies to recorded information. It won't, for example, cover someone's thoughts or opinions, unless they've been recorded in some way. If you're not sure if the information you want is recorded, the authority has a duty to advise and assist you, so you can ask before you make your FOI request.

Animated guide - What can I ask for?

Published information

You might not even have to make a request for the information that you want. It may be published already, through an authority's "Guide to Information".

Asking for certain types of information

Environmental information

The FOI Act doesn't apply to environmental information, but the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations give you very similar rights. "Environmental information" covers a broad range of topics, such as:

  • The environment itself, including air, water, earth and the habitats of animals and plants
  • Things that affect the environment, such as emissions, radiation, noise and pollution
  • Policies, plans and laws on the environment

See the definition of environmental information for more detailed guidance on what might be classed as environmental information.

Which law?

Whatever type of information you're asking for, you don't have to mention the law when you ask. It's up to the public authority to decide which law applies to the information you've asked for.

So if you're unsure which law applies to the information you want, don't worry - all you have to do is ask.

Your Right to Know (BSL) - What can I ask for?