Publication - FOI/EIR release

Joe FitzPatrick meeting information with David Thomson and Cat Hay: FOI release

Published: 5 Jun 2019

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

Published:
5 Jun 2019
Joe FitzPatrick meeting information with David Thomson and Cat Hay: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/19/01016
Date received: 10 May 2019
Date responded: 5 Jun 2019
Information requested

You asked for information relating to a meeting which took place on the 7th of November 2018 between Joe FitzPatrick and both David Thomson and Cat Hay at the Scottish Parliament. Specifically, the information you requested was:

1. The minutes of the meeting;
2. Any preparatory documents prepared by the department;
3. Any correspondence related to the meeting.

Response

I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have some of the information you have requested. We are also unable to provide some of the information you have requested because exemptions under sections 29(1)(a) (formulation or development of government policy and section 30(b)(i) (substantial inhibition of free and frank provision of advice) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why we do no have this information and why these exemptions apply are explained in the Annex to this letter. 

Reasons for not providing information - Annex

With respect to your request for the minutes of the meeting on 7 November 2018 between Joe FitzPatrick and David Thomson and Cat Hay, the Scottish Government does not have the information you have asked for as no minute was taken of this introductory meeting. This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested.

An exemption applies. subject to the public interest test
With respect to your request for any preparatory documents prepared by the department and any correspondence related to the meeting on 7 November 2018 between Joe FitzPatrick and David Thomson and Cat Hay exemptions under sections 29(1)(a) (formulation or development of government policy and section 30(b)(i) (substantial inhibition of free and frank provision of advice) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested.

An exemption under section 29(1)(a) of FOISA (formulation or development of government policy) applies to some of the information requested because it relates to the development of the Scottish Government's policy on proposals to restrict the promotion and marketing of food and drink high fat, sugar or salt
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 high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development of policies and decisions. This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications. Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions on proposals to restrict the promotion and marketing of food and drink high fat, sugar or salt will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government's view on that policy while it is still under discussion and development.

An exemption under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) 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 proposals to restrict the promotion and marketing of food and drink high fat, sugar or salt will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because these discussions are still ongoing and final decisions have not been taken.

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 policy position on proposals to restrict the promotion and marketing of food and drink high fat, sugar or salt until the Government as a whole can adopt a policy that is sound and likely to be effective. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, based on the best available advice, so that good policy 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 policy making process, which would not be in the public interest.

About FOI
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FOI-19-01016 - Information released

20 page PDF
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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 Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG