- 24 Dec 2018
Date received: 16 November 2018
Date responded: 20 December 2018
“On 27 October 2015, the then Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Alex Neil, attended a meeting in Hamilton with campaigners and elected representatives in connection with the upheld appeal, PPA-380-2049. A senior official from DPEA also attended. At least one other official accompanied Mr Neil.
I would be grateful if you could provide me with:
- A copy of the minutes of the meeting
- A list of attendees
- Copies of all correspondence regarding appeal PPA-380-2049, dated on or after 27 October 2015, between the Minister, the DPEA and the Chief Planner and his team, including any communications with Special Advisers.
I would like this information to be provided to me, in electronic format, within 20 working days.”
As the information you have requested is ‘environmental information’ for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.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, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.
Further to your request and following a search of our records, I have found that:
- No minutes of the meeting of 27 October 2015 were ever recorded.
- No list of attendees of the meeting of 27 October 2015 was ever recorded.
- Some items of correspondence dated after 27 October 2015 in relation to appeal PPA-380-2049 are attached separately.
With regard to the first two parts of your request, under the terms of the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs (information not held), the Scottish Government is not required to provide information which it does not have. The Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested because no records of the meeting were kept, and therefore the information you have requested does not exist.
This exception 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 exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. While we recognise that there may be some public interest in information about the subject of your request, clearly we cannot provide information which we do not hold.
Regarding the third part of your request, some of the information that falls within the remit of your request has been withheld. Regulation 10(4)(e) of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 states that a public authority may refuse to make available environmental information to the extent that the request involves making available internal communications.
This exception is subject to the ‘public interest test’ as detailed in regulation 10(1)(b) of the regulations. Regulation 10(1)(b) states that a public authority may refuse to make environmental information available if in all the circumstances, the public interest in making the information available is outweighed by that in maintaining the exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption as disclosure of the process of interdepartmental consideration will undermine the collective responsibility of Scottish Ministers and affect their decision making process in these matters. Ministers and their officials require a secure environment in which to develop their thinking and in order that they can have a full and frank discussion on matters. For the above reasons I have concluded that the public interest in disclosure does not outweigh Scottish Ministers interest in not disclosing this information.
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