Freedom of information

The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act came into force on 1 January 2005. The Act aims to increase openness and accountability in government and across the public sector by ensuring that people have the right to access information held by Scottish public authorities. People will be able to see and question how such bodies function and how decisions are made.

Please do not use the Freedom of Information process to request information about yourself. Information on how to request personal information about you, or information contained in your health records, can be found in our Data Subject Access Request policy.


Who does it apply to?

The Act applies to practically all public bodies in Scotland, including local authorities, the NHS, Colleges and Universities, the Police, the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive. The Act also applies to companies wholly owned by a public authority and, if designated, it may even apply to private companies carrying out a function for a pubic authority, for example under a contract. A full list of the organisations affected is set out in the Act and the Scottish Ministers can add further bodies.

How does Freedom of Information fit with other initiatives?

Even prior to the act coming into force, there were some rights to access information. Some rights continue to exist while others are superseded by the Act. Non-statutory codes that now provide access to information will cease to apply. The Access to Environmental Information Regulations 1992 will continue to apply. These give rights of access to environmental information. A request for environmental information does not have to be in writing and can be made orally. We have to respond to the request within 2 months, and may charge for this information.

How does Freedom of Information fit with Data Protection?

The Data Protection Act 2008 aims to secure individuals’ right to privacy by protecting information that is held about them. When handling personal data, we must comply with the data protection principles, which control how such data is processed. When FOI legislation comes into force a request by an individual for information about themselves will be exempt under Freedom of Information, and will continue to be handled under Data Protection.

How is a request made?