- 17 Jun 2019
Date received: 15 May 2019
Date responded: 5 Jun 2019
Any correspondence (letters, emails or otherwise) addressed to (a) Nicola Sturgeon (b) Derek Mackay (c) Michael Matheson on Air Departure Tax in 2019.
I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested.
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 exemption(s under sections 33(1)(b) (Commercial interests) and s. 30(b)(ii) (Free and frank exchange of views) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in the Annex to this letter.
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION
Exemptions apply, subject to the public interest test
An exemption under section 33(1)(b) of FOISA (commercial interests) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure of this particular information would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the commercial interests of Edinburgh Airport. Disclosing this information would be likely to harm their commercial business by disclosing information on performance.
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 and transparent government, and to help account for the expenditure of public money. However, there is a greater public interest in protecting the commercial interests of companies which engage with the Scottish Government, to encourage their ongoing communications with the Scottish Government.
An exemption under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. This exemption recognises the need for Ministers to have a private space within which to discuss issues and options with external stakeholders before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of this correspondence with members of the public on Air Departure Tax will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, because these stakeholders will be reluctant to provide their views fully and frankly if they believe that those views are likely to be made public, particularly while discussions are still ongoing in the area of Government policy and climate change.
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 Ministers and officials a private space within which to communicate with appropriate external stakeholders as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s position on tax and climate change, until the Government as a whole can adopt a policy that is sound and likely to be effective. This private space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good decisions can be taken based on fully informed advice and evidence, such as that provided by these members of the public. Disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between the Scottish Government and these stakeholders, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, which would not be in the public interest. There is also an important public interest in avoiding the loss of stakeholder confidence in cases where they thought they were providing comments in confidence, which would be inevitable if an individual’s contribution was released against their wishes.
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