Publication - FOI/EIR release

Least Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS) correspondence and future structure: FOI release

Published: 15 Aug 2019

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

Published:
15 Aug 2019
Least Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS) correspondence and future structure: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/19/01661
Date received: 16 Jul 2019
Date responded: 14 Aug 2019
Information requested

You asked for:

  • Any correspondence (letters, emails or otherwise) between Fergus Ewing and Scottish Government Officials relating to the Least Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS)
  • Documentation outlining plans for the future structure and funding of the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme

Timeframe: since September 2018.

Response

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

Some of the information you have requested is available from:

SRDP 2014-2020 programme document
www.gov.scot/publications/srdp-programme-document-march-2018,

Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS) information and guidance
www.ruralpayments.org/publicsite/futures/topics/all-schemes/lfass

The Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2019
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ssi/2019/98 (including the Policy Note, Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment, and Equality Impact Assessment)

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 section(s) of FOISA applies to that information:

s.29(1)(a) formulation or development of Scottish Government policy
s.30(b)(i)(ii) free and frank provision of advice or exchange of views
s.38(1)(b) personal information

The reasons why that exemption(s) applies are explained in the Annex to this letter.

Reasons for not providing information - Annex
An exemption applies

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. the names and contact details of individuals, 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

An exemption under section 29(1)(a) of FOISA (formulation or development of government policy) applies to some of the information you have requested because it relates to the development of the Scottish Government’s policy on the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS). It contains information on the formulation or development of
Scottish Government policy.

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 LFASS 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 development.

An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test

An exemption under section 30(b)(i) and (ii) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views) applies to some of the information you have requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views for the proposes of deliberation. This exemption recognises the need for Ministers and officials to have a private space within which to provide advice and exchange views before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on LFASS will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because these discussions are still ongoing and decisions have not been taken, and these discussions relate to a sensitive or controversial issue such as Brexit.

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 and other officials, as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s position on LFASS, 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 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 and decision making process, 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 Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG