Freedom of Information (FOI) is the right to obtain information held by a public authority. The list of which organisations are considered as ‘public authorities’ is extensive, but includes: Police Scotland, universities, colleges, BBC, Scottish Enterprise, NHS Scotland and any company that is wholly owned by a public authority.
Anyone can make a request. It has to be in writing and there should be a name and address (postal or email) to which a response can be provided. The public authority has 20 working days to provide a response (with some exceptions).
Organisations need to be aware of their FOI obligations and related information issues.
How can Thorntons help?
At Thorntons, our team have detailed knowledge of FOI regulations, and experience in advising public bodies on how they comply with the law. We regularly provide guidance on what to consider when contracting with a third party from the perspectives of public authorities and private organisations, in terms of the type of information which should be protected from entering the public domain.
We understand that receiving an FOI request when you are unsure how to respond can impose an administrative burden you have not planned for. We can help relieve that burden by providing advice and assistance in drafting responses and ensuring compliance with legislative timescales.
We also provide FOI training to a variety of organisations, ensuring they are fully informed on how to deal with requests, the information that should (and has) to be provided, and advice on the protection of commercially sensitive information.
We can also provide advice and guidance to people wishing to make FOI requests, the process involved and how to ensure they receive the information they are looking for.