- 19 Feb 2018
FOI reference: FOI/18/00063
Date received: 10 January 2018
Date responded: 6 February 2018
You asked for information on correspondence between Michael Matheson and his officials on acid attacks, what plans are there for gathering data on the number of acid attacks, and any briefings prepared for Michael Matheson on the issue.
I enclose a copy of some the information that you have requested.
Some of the information you have requested is available from the Scottish Parliament website:
Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website listed, then please contact me and I will send you a paper copy.
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 section(s) 30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice), 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views) and 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in the Annex to this letter.
Reasons for not providing information
An exemption applies
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies a small amount the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, ie the names and contact details of Scottish Government official and members of the public, 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.
An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test
Exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice for the purpose of deliberation) and 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views for the purpose of deliberation) apply to some of the information requested. These exemptions apply because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. The exemptions recognise the need for Ministers to have a private space within which to seek advice and views from officials before reaching the settled public position which will be given in whatever final Parliamentary Question answers and press lines are used. Disclosing the content of briefing material on the Scottish Government's position concerning to acid attacks risks significantly inhibiting such briefing 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 in briefing for Parliamentary Question answers, press lines and lines to take. It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers can properly answer Parliamentary Questions, 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. Premature 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.
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