Publication - FOI/EIR release

Discussions around charitable status of private schools: FOI release

Published: 8 Feb 2018
Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.
Published:
8 Feb 2018
Discussions around charitable status of private schools: FOI release

FOI reference: FOI/17/03041
Date received: 13 December 2017
Date responded: 18 January 2018

Information requested

  • All material held regarding any discussions around the charitable status of private schools in Scotland (this should include internal communications, external communications, briefing/proposal documents, minutes of meetings and any other relevant documents) from January 2016 – present

  • All material held regarding any discussions around private schools' payment of, or exemption from, full business rates (this should include internal communications, external communications, briefing/proposal documents, minutes of meetings and other relevant documents) from January 2016 – present

Response

I enclose copies of the information you requested.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance some information has been redacted from the enclosed documents because exemptions under 38(1)(b) (personal information), 29(1)(a) (formulation or development of Scottish Government policy) and 30(b)(ii) (free and frank provision of advice) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why those exemptions apply are explained below.

Reasons for not providing information

1. An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the redacted information because it is the personal data of third party, i.e. names/contact details of individuals, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act 1998.

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.

2. An exemption under section 29(1)(a) of FOISA (development or formulation of Scottish Government policy) applies to some of the information requested because it relates to the development of the Scottish Government's policy on removing charity rates relief from independent schools.

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. Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government's view on that policy while it is still under discussion and development.

3. An exemption under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) applies 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 for the purposes of deliberation. This exemption recognises the need for Ministers to have a private space within which to discuss issues and options before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view.

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 as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's position.

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 Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG