Publication - FOI/EIR release

Scottish Government Resilience Room meetings: FOI release

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

Published:
29 Jun 2020
Scottish Government Resilience Room meetings: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202000036336
Date received: 12 May 2020
Date responded: 12 Jun 2020
Information requested

All the minutes of the Scottish Government Resilience Room meetings held in February and March 2020. In addition I would like to have lists of all those who attended those meetings.

Response

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 29(1)(a), 29(1)(b), 30(a), 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) apply to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in the annex to this letter.
The Scottish Government Resilience Room hosts meetings generally referred to as SGoRR(O) and SGoRR(M). I have provided details of these meeting that took place in February and March 2020. If your enquiry relates to details of other meetings then please advise me. 

In February and March 2020 there were nine Scottish Government Resilience (Officials) meetings and eight meetings of the Scottish Government Resilience (Ministerial). These were

SGoR (O) Meetings
Thursday 6th February
Friday 14th February
Monday 24th February
Friday 28th February
Friday 6th March
Sunday 15th March
Friday 20th March
Monday 23rd March
Wednesday 25th March

SGoR (M) Meetings
Monday 17th February
Tuesday 25th February
Sunday 1st March
Monday 2nd March
Monday 16th March
Thursday 19th March
Thursday 26th March
Monday 30th March

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.
The list of attendees at SGoRR varies from meeting to meeting. They generally comprise a range of Cabinet Secretaries, Ministers, scientific and medical advisors, Scottish Government officials, and chief officers from key partner agencies such as COSLA and Police Scotland.

Where the lists of those invited and accepted have been retained and found within our systems, they are attached. However in some cases they may have been unable to attend at the last minute or been substituted by another. The attached lists are not therefore confirmation of who actually attended that meeting.
Some of the officials who attended have an expectation of privacy under General Data Protection Regulations. Accordingly officials names who are not Senior Civil Service grades or equivalent have been redacted.

Annex
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION

An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test

By their nature, discussions at meetings of SGoRR inform the decisions taken collectively by Ministers in relation to the formulation and development of Scottish Government policy. Section 29(1)(a) applies to information contained in SGoRR papers and/or minutes which relate to the formulation or development of Scottish Government policies FOISA was never intended to undermine the convention of collective  responsibility, and the section 29(1)(b) and 30 (a) exemptions were included to recognise its importance. Collective responsibility requires a private space, which ensures that Ministers can express their views frankly in internal discussion of an issue whilst maintaining a united front once decisions have been reached.

The exemptions at section 30(a) (Collective Responsibility) and 29(1)(b) (Ministerial Communications) recognise the need to protect the convention of collective responsibility and allow Ministers some private space for discussion.

Exemptions under Sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) which relate respectively to free and frank provision of advice and free and frank exchange of views, apply to the information requested. 30(b)(i) recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to Ministers. 30(b)(ii) recognises the need for Ministers and officials to have a private space within which to discuss and explore options before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. 

Disclosing the content of the free and frank advice or the content of the free and frank discussions will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice or discussion in the future particularly where the discussions and advice relate to an ongoing and sensitive matter with controversial aspects.

These exemptions are subject to the “public interest test”. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances in 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 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 interest in allowing Ministers and officials a private space within which to explore and refine the Governments position that is sound and likely to be effective. This private space is essential to allow all options to be properly considered , 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 decisions making process, which would not be in the public interest.

About FOI

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.

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