Publication - FOI/EIR release

Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) correspondence: FOI release

Published: 24 Sep 2020

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

Published:
24 Sep 2020
Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) correspondence: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202000067990
Date received: 29 Jul 2020
Date responded: 26 Aug 2020
Information requested
  1. Whether any briefings or memos were produced for Scottish Government ministers and/or officials about reducing the rates of LBTT in Scotland from 1 June 2020 to date. Please provide copies of any material where it exists.
  2. Details and minutes of any meetings where Scottish Government Ministers and/or their special advisors were in attendance and LBTT was discussed from 1 June 2020 to date.
Response

Please find some of the information you requested in Annex B to this letter.

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
25(1) (Information otherwise accessible)
38(1)(b) (personal information)
29(1)(a) (formulation and development of Scottish Government policy)
29(1)(b) (Ministerial communications)
30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice)
of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in Annex A to this letter.

The section 25(1) (information otherwise accessible) exemption has been applied to some of the information you have requested however you can find the information following this link:
https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ssi/2020/215/contents/made

ANNEX A
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION

An exemption applies
Section 25(1) – otherwise accessible
An exemption under section 25(1) of FOISA (Information otherwise accessible) applies to some of the information requested because this information is reasonably obtainable by the applicant as the information is already in the public domain.

Section 38(1)(b) – personal data
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, ie 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.

Exemptions apply, subject to the public interest test:

Section 29(1)(a) – the formulation or development of government policy
Exemptions under sections 29(1)(a) of FOISA (the formulation or development of government policy) apply to some of the information you have requested. This exemption applies because disclosure may impact the effectiveness of future policy development and implementation work. 

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.

Section 29(1)(b) – Ministerial Communications
Exemptions under 29(1)(b) of FOISA (Ministerial communications) apply to one exchange held of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosing communications between individual Ministers which record their views, would substantially prejudice maintenance of that convention. The exemption recognises the need for Ministers within which to seek advice and discuss options before reaching a settled public view. Disclosing the content of such advice/discussions will substantially inhibit the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views in the future.

These exemptions are 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 exemptions. 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 public interest in allowing a private space where allowing Ministers a private space within which policy positions can be explored and refined, until the Government as a whole can reach a decision that is sound and likely to be effective. This private space also allows for all options to be properly considered, so that good policy decisions can be taken. It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers can properly explore policy positions and exchange views privately until the Government have reached a decision. Disclosure of this type of information could lead to a reduction in the exchange of views in the future, which would not be in the public interest.

Section 30(b)(i) – free and frank provision of advice
Exemptions under 30(b)(i) of FOISA (the free and frank provision of advice) apply 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 to Ministers. The exemption recognises the need for officials to have the ability to advise Ministers freely and frankly. Disclosing the content of the free and frank provision of advice on could substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future.

These exemptions are 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 exemptions. 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 public interest in allowing a private space within which officials can provide free and frank advice and views to Ministers. It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers can properly provide sound information to Parliament (to which they are accountable), and robustly defend the Government’s policies and decisions. They need full and candid advice from officials to enable them to do so. Disclosure of this type of information could lead to a reduction in the comprehensiveness and frankness of such advice and views in the future, 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