Overview

You have the right to ask to see recorded information held by public authorities.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act (FOISA) give you the right to see information.

If you ask for environmental information, your request will be handled under the Environmental Regulations (EIRs) or Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations (EISRs).

Environmental information includes things like carbon emissions or the environment’s effect on human health.

You do not need to tell the organisation which law or regulations you’re making your request under.

Personal information

There is a different way to make a request if you want information that an organisation holds about you. This includes things like your health records or credit reference files.

Organisations you can ask for information

You can request information from some public authorities, such as:

You can make an environmental information request to private or public companies that have public responsibilities - like water companies.

If you’re not sure if the organisation is one you can make a request to, check with the information commissioner for:

Information Commissioner’s Office
Telephone: 0303 123 1113
Welsh language: 0330 414 6421
Textphone: 01625 532692
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
Find out about call charges

How to make an FOI request

You must make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request in writing. You can do it by:

If you cannot make your request in writing because of a disability, contact the public authority. They should help you to make the request another way - for example over the phone.

You can ask for environmental information in writing, in person or by phone.

Before you make a request

You might not need to make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request if the organisation has:

Check their website for responses to previous FOI requests. This is sometimes known as a ‘disclosure log’. You can search for published responses to FOI requests from government departments, agencies and arms length bodies.

You can also email or phone the organisation to ask if they’ve already published the information or responded to an FOI request.

What to include

You should give:

You can ask for information in a particular format, such as:

When you’ll get a response

The organisation should send you the information within 20 working days of receiving your request. Some schools are allowed more time during school holidays.

In Scotland, you should allow 6 extra days if you send your request by post.

The organisation will tell you when to expect the information if they need more time.

When your information will be shared

If you’ve sent an FOI request to several government departments, they may share your name and request between them. This is to help deal with your enquiry more effectively.

No other details will be shared and your information will not be used for any other purpose.

Costs

Most requests are free but you might be asked to pay a small amount for photocopies or postage. The organisation will tell you if you have to pay anything.

Check the copyright status of information you receive if you plan to reproduce it.

If your request is turned down

Some sensitive information is not available to members of the public. If this applies, an organisation must tell you why they cannot give you some or all of the information you requested.

They might ask you to be more specific so they can provide just the information you need.

An organisation can also refuse your Freedom of Information (FOI) request if getting information will cost more than £450, or £600 if the organisation is:

An organisation can refuse your request for environmental information, if they think the cost of getting the information is too high.

Reviews and complaints

If an organisation does not provide you with the information you requested, you should first ask them to review their decision.

If you’re not satisfied with the organisation’s response, you can complain or appeal to the information commissioner for:

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