You asked for a review of our reply to your original Freedom of Information (FoI) request which was allocated reference number 202300339075:
“Any emails between Scottish Government ministers and Ferguson Marine officials that discuss bidding for new contracts, during the period between April 2022 and the present.”
Upon receipt of the response you submitted the following review request:
“... a blanket ban on the release of the emails between Scottish Government ministers and Ferguson Marine officials discussing bidding for contracts seems unnecessary. There is a strong public interest in understanding whether Ferguson Marine is operating effectively and providing value for money. Further, the Scottish Government has the opportunity to redact any financial, operational, or technical discussions about their market offering, or specific bid information, which is likely to provide any commercial disadvantage. The mere fact that Ferguson Marine is bidding for work, in a general sense, should not be treated as commercially sensitive, as this is the normal state of affairs for a shipbuilder, and does not provide any commercial disadvantage in relation to any other competitor in the market...”
I have been asked to look at your request afresh, to decide whether the original response should be confirmed, with or without modifications, as appropriate, or that a fresh decision should be substituted. I can confirm that I was not involved in the handling or decision-making around the original response. I have considered this case again, and I have conducted a comprehensive review of the response, and the reasons behind withholding the requested information. I have concluded that the original decision should be upheld with modifications.
As such, I feel information can be released and this material has been provided. Please be advised the out of scope information contained within these documents has been redacted.
I have reconsidered the application of section 33(1)(b) commercial interest and believe that in this instance the exemption was incorrectly applied. I have concluded some of the information regarding Ferguson's bidding should be withheld under section 30(c) prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs.
This exemption is applicable if disclosure would otherwise prejudice substantially, or be likely to prejudice substantially, the effective conduct of public affairs. The information that you have requested does relate to a sensitive process, bidding for contracts, and therefore if the Scottish Government releases this it may have a harmful effect on the relationship between Ferguson and Ministers which in turn would damage the ability of the Scottish Government to make informed policy decisions in regards to Ferguson.
I have taken account of all the circumstances of this case, and have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption and 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. However, there is a greater public interest in protecting the effective conduct of public affairs and ensuring that the Scottish Government is able conduct this aspect of its business effectively.
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.
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- 2 page PDF
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- 8 page PDF
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Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
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