- 22 Mar 2018
FOI reference: FOI/18/00384
Date received: 9 February 2018
Date responded: 9 March 2018
Any civil service briefings on the Scottish National Investment Bank, Scottish Investment Bank or Business Development Bank in 2017 or 2018 to date.
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 sections S.14 (2) (repeated requests), S.25 (1) (Information that is Otherwise Accessible) and S.30(b)(i) (Free and Frank Provision of Advice) apply. The reasons why those exemptions apply are explained below.
Reasons for not providing information
The Scottish Government does not have the information.
The Scottish Government does not have the information you have asked for on briefings on the topic of the Business Development Bank in 2017 or 2018. Scottish Government concluded work on this policy area in 2016, as can be seen from announcements made to Parliament at this time. For your information there was information released on this topic in November 2017, this is available at https://beta.gov.scot/publications/foi-17-02510/.
The Scottish Government does not have the information you have asked for on briefings on the topic of the Scottish Investment Bank in 2017 or 2018. The Scottish Investment Bank is a division of Scottish Enterprise.
This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested.
An exemption applies. The following exemption is not subject to the public interest test.
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, under section 14(2) of FOISA a public authority is not required to comply with a request for information if it is identical or substantially similar to a request which it has already complied with, unless a reasonable amount of time has elapsed between the two requests. An element of this request for briefings is substantially similar to your request FOI/17/02599 and additional requests, FOI/17/02510 and FOI/17/02387. The Scottish Information Commissioner's guidance on repeated requests at:
says that in considering whether a reasonable period of time has elapsed between the previous request and the new request, there are two questions which will help the authority:
(i) has the information changed?
(ii) have the circumstances changed?
In this case, we have considered the circumstances and have provided any additional information after 24/10/2017. Information before this point can be found at https://beta.gov.scot/publications/foi-17-02510/, https://beta.gov.scot/publications/foi-17-02387/ and https://beta.gov.scot/publications/foi-17-02599/.
An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test.
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(s) listed or have any difficulty retrieving this information, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.
An exemption under section 30(b)(i) (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 future advice. This exemption recognises the need for Ministers and officials to have a private space within which to discuss and explore options before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content this advice on the Scottish National Investment Bank will substantially inhibit these in the future, particularly because these discussions are still on-going.
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 a private space within which officials can provide full and frank advice to Ministers and other officials, as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's policy positions. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, based on the best available advice. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between Ministers and officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the policy making process, 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