- 3 Apr 2018
FOI reference: FOI/18/00403
Date received: 9 February 2018
Date responded: 22 March 2018
Details of the five 'PfG' ideas requested by the First Minister, as detailed in Richard Rollison's email of 14 July 2017. Information should include but not be limited to: any correspondence (emails, typed or handwritten notes, letters, phone calls, briefs or otherwise) between Nicola Sturgeon and Rollison mentioning or outlining the ideas; correspondence (as defined above) between special advisers on the ideas; and any briefs prepared by civil servants on the ideas in the three months prior to 14 July.
The five 'PfG' ideas were:
(i) Invest 3% of GDP in innovation;
(ii) Target EU funds on post-industrial Scotland
(iii) Establish a National Investment Bank
(iv) Establish community savings and investments funds; and
(v) Focus economic development
Section 25 of FOISA exempts information from disclosure where the requester can reasonably obtain the information without making a request for it. This applies to the National Investment Bank. Otherwise, I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested.
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 29(1)(a) (policy formulation) and 30(i) and (ii) (free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why that exemption(s) applies are explained below.
Reasons for not providing information
Exemptions apply, subject to the public interest test.
An exemption under section 29(1)(a) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested because it relates to the formulation of Scottish Government policy.
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 development and implementation. 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 discussions on the five PfG ideas will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government's view on the policies while they are still under discussion and development.
Exemptions also apply under sections 30b (i) and (ii) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views. These exemptions apply because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to Ministers and other officials before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice and views on the five PfG ideas will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future.
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 each other as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's position on the five PfG ideas as part of the process of developing the Programme for Government (PfG). 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. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues and exchange of views 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