- 6 Apr 2018
FOI reference: FOI/18/00464
Date received: 12 February 2018
Date responded: 12 March 2018
All correspondence between Scottish Government officials or external parties regarding the 'Scotland's colleges: delivering for all' policy paper published 19 January 2018.
I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested in the attached pdf files.
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 an exemption applies to that information. The reasons why that exemption(s) applies are explained below.
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION
Exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information)
This applies to some of the information requested because it contains personal data of a third party, i.e. Scottish Government official names below Senior Civil Service and their direct contact details. This information has been redacted throughout the documents which are being released. Disclosing this information 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.
Section 33(1) (b) – commercial interests
An exemption under section 33(1) (b) of FOISA (commercial interests) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure of this particular information would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the commercial interests of the publishing company involved. Disclosing this information would be likely to give the company's competitors an advantage in future similar tendering exercises, which would substantially prejudice their ability to submit competitive tenders and so could significantly harm their commercial business. 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 and transparent government, and to help account for the expenditure of public money. However, there is a greater public interest in protecting the commercial interests of companies which enter into, Scottish Government contracts, to ensure that we are always able to obtain the best value for public money.
Section 30(b)(i) – free and frank provision of advice [in relation to Cabinet/ Ministerial/official discussions and policy formulation/development
An exemption under section 30(b)(i) 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. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to Ministers/other officials before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on the removal of Glasgow Clyde Board members will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because these discussions relate to a sensitive or controversial issue such. 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/other officials, as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's position on the removal of Glasgow Clyde Board members until the Government as a whole can adopt a decision that is sound and likely to be effective. 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 between Ministers and officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision 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