Frequently asked questions about the FOI Act
What is the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act?
The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 was introduced by the Scottish Parliament to ensure that people have the right to access information held by all Scottish public authorities. The Act states that any person can receive information that they request from a public authority, subject to certain exemptions such as protection of personal data, commercial confidentiality or national security. The Act came into force on 1 January 2005.
Is the act only in Scotland?
More than 50 countries worldwide have freedom of information laws. More than half of these have been passed in the last decade. The Scottish Information Commissioner has produced a comparative table stating the main differences between the UK Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.
What are the distinctions between FOI & Data Protection?
Individuals already have the right to access information about themselves under the Data Protection Act 1998. This is a completely separate matter which is the responsibility of the UK Information Commissioner. Requests by individuals for personal information about themselves do not come under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act. Further information can be found here.
What is the relationship between FOI and the Data Protection Act?
These two acts have distinct purposes but there is an interaction between them, which will at times be complex. One of the exemptions under the FOI act is that the request concerns personal data but not every such request will be exempt.
Are there any restrictions on how far back a requestor can ask for?
No, the act is fully retrospective.
How do we amend or add to the publication scheme?
If you wish us to amend or add to the publication scheme please contact Governance Services via: firstname.lastname@example.org
What is the definition of a public body under the act?
The act includes all Scottish public authorities including:
- the Scottish Government and its agencies
- the Scottish Parliament
- Local Authorities
- NHS Scotland
- Universities and further education colleges
- the Police
Does this include handwritten notes from meetings?
The act states that ALL recorded information in any form is open to public scrutiny. This includes:
- handwritten notes and annotations
- electronic documents
- paper documents
Can books and other material held by the library be subject to an information request under the Act?
Yes, although in many cases the library would be entitled to consider whether the exemption in s25 of the Act would allow them to claim that the information is "reasonably obtainable" and therefore otherwise accessible.
How long have I got to respond to a request for information?
We must reply promptly to all requests and no later than 20 working days following the date on which the request is received. The 20 days starts when the University receives the request, not when the relevant department receives it. Working days are all days except Saturdays, Sundays and Bank holidays.
This means that University closure days are included in the 20-day count.