- 18 Mar 2019
Date received: 14 Feb 2019
Date responded: 14 Mar 2019
All correspondence from the Scottish Executive to Nicola Sturgeon regarding The Penrose Inquiry during the period 20th March 2014 - 20th March 2015.
Similarly to previous requests, we have interpreted your request in this case to mean that you are seeking Scottish Government correspondence with the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during the period from 20 March 2014 to 20 March 2015. It would be helpful in future if you could ensure future requests are clearer on the information you are seeking.
Please find attached some of the information you requested in Annex B. 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 s.30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice) and s.38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in Annex A to this letter.
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION
An exemption under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to Ministers before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on the handling of the publication of the Penrose Inquiry will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because these discussions relate to ongoing issues being considered by the UK Inquiry.
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 a private space within which officials can provide full and frank advice to Ministers, as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s position on handling of high profile publications, until the Government as a whole can adopt a position that is sound. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, based on the best available advice, so that good decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between Ministers and officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, which would not be in the public interest.
An exemption under section s.38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) also applies to some of the information you have requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. the names and contact details of non-senior officials, 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 this exemption.
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 Andrews House