- 7 Sep 2018
FOI reference: FOI/18/02141
Date received: 8 August 2018
Date responded: 6 September 2018
(a) All correspondence between the Scottish Government and Edinburgh City Council regarding a transient visitor tax/tourist tax for the city. This should include emails, letters and other forms of correspondence.
(b) All internal Scottish Government communications (i.e., letters, emails, etc.) and documents (i.e., briefings, memos, etc.) regarding a transient visitor tax/tourist tax in Scotland.
(c ) Minutes from any meetings held between the Scottish Government and Edinburgh Council or CoSLA regarding a transient visitor tax/tourist tax.
(d) All correspondence between the Scottish Government and COSLA regarding a transient visitor tax/tourist tax for the city. This should include emails, letters and other forms of correspondence.
I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested, dealt with under the following headings.
(a) and (c)
Most of the information you have requested under (a) and (c) – in respect of City of Edinburgh Council is already available under FoI/18/01314. This was published on 20 June and is available using this url:
Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website(s) listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested under (c) – in respect of COSLA. This is because an exemption under section 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why that
exemption applies are explained below. The redacted minutes of two meetings are enclosed.
(b) While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide the information requested under (b). While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the costs of locating, retrieving and providing the information requested would exceed the upper cost limit of £600.
Under section 12 of FOISA public authorities are not required to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying would exceed the upper cost limit, which is currently set at £600 by Regulations made under section 12. You may, however, wish to consider reducing the scope of your request under (b) in order
that the costs can be brought below £600.
You may also find it helpful to look at the Scottish Information Commissioner’s ‘Tips for requesting information under FOI and the EIRs’ on his website at: http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/YourRights/Tipsforrequesters.aspx.
(d) The Scottish Government does not hold copies of “correspondence between the Scottish Government and COSLA regarding a transient visitor tax/tourist tax for the city” [of Edinburgh].
Reasons for not providing information
An exemption under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views) applies to some of the information requested under (c) in respect of COSLA. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. This exemption recognises the need for Officials to have a private space within which to discuss issues and options with external stakeholders before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of these discussions with COSLA on COSLA’s proposals for a Transient Visitor Tax will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, because these stakeholders will be reluctant to provide their views fully and frankly if they believe that those views are likely to be made public, particularly while these discussions are still ongoing and decisions have not been taken on a sensitive or controversial issue such as a Tourist Tax.
This exemption is 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 exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. 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 Ministers and officials a private space within which to communicate with appropriate external stakeholders as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s position on calls for a Tourist Tax, until the Government as a whole can adopt a policy that is sound and likely to be effective. This private space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good policy decisions can be taken based on fully informed advice and evidence, such as that provided by COSLA. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between the Scottish Government and these stakeholders, which in turn will undermine the quality of the policy making process, 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 https://www.gov.scot/foi-responses
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House