Publication - FOI/EIR release

Communications in relation to the freedom of information request 18/02606: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Published:
26 Nov 2018
Communications in relation to the freedom of information request 18/02606: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/18/03259
Date received: 30 October 2018
Date responded: 23 November 2018
 
Information requested
 
“Any correspondence (emails, letters, phone calls, handwritten notes or any other documents) between the lead official on FOI request 18/02606 and/or Scottish Government ministers and/or the SG FOI Unit and/or special advisers regarding the response to that FOI request. 

Information should include: a detailed timeline (with dates) of when the lead official contacted ministers/special advisers (and vice versa); any notes or comments or suggestions offered by ministers or special advisers to the lead official; any input from the SG FOI Unit; any advice or comments from ministers/spads rejected by the lead official; any advice or comments from ministers/spads accepted by the lead official; any correspondence (as defined previously) on the use of exemptions; any correspondence (as defined previously) on material to be redacted; any information on delays to the FOI response; any information on who received the FOI to clear, when they responded and what they said; and any information on delays to the FOI response.”

Response
 
In relation to your above request regarding to any correspondence relating to the response to FOI request 18/02606. 
 
I have enclosed most of the information you have requested in Annex B of this letter. Included in Annex B are all email correspondence found relating to FOI 18/02606 and a timeline of actions relating to FOI 18/02606. 
 
We do not hold any handwritten notes, letters or records of phone calls between Ministers, Special Advisors or the SG FOI Unit and the lead official relating to the FOI 18/02606. This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not hold this information. 
 
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because exemptions under sections 38(1)(a) and38(1)(b) apply to a small amount of personal information held within the correspondence exchanged in preparing a response to your previous request. In addition, exemptions under section 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) of FOISA apply to some of the information within the scope of this request which was previously withheld in response to FOI/18/02606. The reasons why those exemptions apply are explained below.
 
Reasons for not providing information
 
Exemptions under section 38(1)(a) and 38(1)(b).

An exemption under section 38(1)(a) of FOISA (personal information) has been applied to your name and contact details because it is personal information of which you are the data subject, and so it is subject to the General Data Protection Regulation. This exemption is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.
An exemption under section 38(1)(b)(personal information) applies to some of the information you have requested.
 
This exemption applies because the information is personal data of a third party, names and contact details, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018.   This exemption is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. 

An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test.
 
Sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) – free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation.
 
Exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank advice and exchange of views) apply to some of the information requested. These exemptions apply because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation.  The exemptions recognise the need for Ministers to have a private space within which to seek advice and views from officials before reaching the settled public position which will be given in whatever final press lines/lines to take are used. Disclosing the content of free and frank briefing material on education policy advice will substantially inhibit such briefing in the future, particularly because discussions on the issue are still ongoing and final decisions have not been taken. 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 to Ministers in press lines/ lines to take.  It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers can properly answer Parliamentary questions, provide sound information to Parliament (to which they are accountable), and robustly defend the Government’s policies and decisions. They need full and candid advice from officials to enable them to do so. Premature 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. 
 
About FOI

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Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit 
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000 


The Scottish Government 
St Andrew's House 
Regent Road 
Edinburgh 
EH1 3DG