- 14 Dec 2017
FOI reference: FOI/17/02832
Date received: 21 November 2017
Date responded: 13 December 2017
i. any or all correspondence between Transport Scotland and Serco Caledonian Sleeper Ltd (SCSL) relating to the withdrawal of the standard solo sleeper fare: and
ii. any and all internal correspondence held in Transport Scotland relating to this change including but not limited to the initial request, internal decision-making process and outcome.
2. I enclose a copy of the information you requested as follows:
i. an E-Mail from SCSL to Transport Scotland dated 23 February 2016, attaching;
a. a presentation setting out Caledonian Sleeper's Product Plan for 2016;
b. a covering letter from Serco Caledonian Sleeper Ltd
ii. an E-Mail from SCSL to Transport Scotland dated 1 April 2016 setting out SCSL's rationale for withdrawing the standard solo sleeper fare; and
iii. a submission to the Minister for Transport and the Islands recommending Transport Scotland agreement to the withdrawal of the fare.
3. Whilst our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance it has been necessary to redact some of the information you have requested because exemptions under Sections 30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice) and 33(1)(b) (commercial interests) of FOISA apply.
Reasons for not providing information
Exemptions apply, subject to the public interest test.
An exemption under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) applies to some of the information requested – namely sections of the submission to the Minister for Transport and the Islands. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to Ministers before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on Caledonian Sleeper's May 2016 fares changes and marketing campaigns would substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because this advice related to sensitive and commercial information.
This exemption is subject to the 'public interest test'. Taking account of all the circumstances of this case, therefore, we have considered whether 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. There is a greater public interest, however, in allowing a private space within which officials can provide full and frank advice to Ministers as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's position on train operating company fares policies. 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. Disclosure of such advice would be likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between Ministers and officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision-making process, which would not be in the public interest.
An exemption under section 33(1)(b) of FOISA (commercial interests) applies to some the information requested – namely sections of the E-Mail exchanges between Serco Caledonian Sleeper Ltd and Transport Scotland and sections of the presentation attached to one of these E-Mails. This exemption applies because disclosure of this particular information would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the commercial interests of Serco Caledonian Sleeper Ltd. It would reveal details of Serco's marketing strategy that could potentially give Serco's competitors an advantage in future rail franchise competitions.
This exemption is subject to the 'public interest test'. Taking account of all the circumstances of this case, therefore, 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. There is a greater public interest, however, in protecting the commercial interests of companies which tender for and enter into Scottish Government contracts, to ensure that we are always able to obtain the best value for public money.
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 Andrew's House