- 16 Apr 2018
FOI reference: FOI/18/00861
Date received: 21 March 2018 Date responded: 12 April 2018
Requested information for correspondence (emails, Yammer messages, typed or handwritten notes, letters, phone calls, minutes of meetings or otherwise) between SG ministers or special advisers and civil servants regarding the Labour Productivity for Quarter 3 stat publication prior to its public release.
I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested. This consists of a briefing document sent to Ministers and Special Advisers and final press lines agreed prior to publication.
Access to these statistics prior to their public release is controlled and is provided under the rules and principles of the Pre-release Access to Official Statistics (Scotland) Order 2008. This allows statistics such as these to be shared up to 24 hours prior to publication. This is primarily to ensure that responses to questions and public statements made at the time of or shortly after publication are based on a correct understanding of the statistics.
Some correspondence around the agreement of final press lines has been withheld for the reasons set out below.
Exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) of FOISA apply to some of the information you have requested. These exemptions apply because disclosure would be likely to inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice and discussions on the best means and timing for the release of information and responses to media stories and speculation, and/or the presentation of policies and decisions to the media and the public. These exemptions recognise the need for Ministers and officials to have a private space within which to seek advice and views from colleagues before finalising press lines and other enquiries. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice or views will substantially inhibit staff from providing such comments in the future in similar cases.
These exemptions are subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemptions. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemptions. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing a private space within which officials can provide free and frank advice and views when considering lines to take with the press announcing Scottish Government policies, decisions etc. It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers and officials can properly and accurately release information and provide responses to media stories. They need full and candid advice to enable them to do so. Disclosure of this type of information could lead to a reduction in the comprehensiveness and frankness of such advice and views in the future, which would not be in the public interest.
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House