Publication - FOI/EIR release

Berlin, Brussels or Paris trade hubs: FOI release

Published: 17 May 2018

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Published:
17 May 2018
Berlin, Brussels or Paris trade hubs: FOI release

FOI reference: FOI/18/00502
Date received: 9 February 2018
Date responded: 2 May 2018

Information requested

1. Any correspondence (emails, typed or handwritten notes, letters, phone calls, minutes of meetings, briefs or otherwise) involving Keith Brown or his staff on the topic of the Berlin, Brussels or Paris trade hubs from September 2017 to February 2018.

Response

We have provided the following documents:

  • An update on Innovation & Investment Hubs – CTEER Committee provided to the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Mr Keith Brown MSP (28 September 2017).

  • A briefing note provided to the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work with an update on progress regarding the Germany Innovation and Investment Hub and draft objectives and priorities for 2018 (February 2018).

While our aim is to provide information wherever possible, the following exemptions apply to some of the information and documentation requested.

Section 25(1).

Some of the information requested relating to the Berlin, Brussels or Paris Innovation and Investment Hubs is already publically available, for example at

https://beta.gov.scot/policies/europe/innovation-and-investment-hubs/

on the Scottish Government's publication page - https://beta.gov.scot/publications/

or, with regards to the September 2017 CTEER committee,

http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11122&mode=pdf

Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to provide you with information if it is reasonably accessible to you.

Reasons for not providing information

Section 27(1).

An exemption under section 27(1) of FOISA applies to some of the information requested because we intend to publish that information within 12 weeks of the date of your request. We consider that it is reasonable to withhold the information until that date, rather than release some of this information before the planned publication date.

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 some public interest in release because of interest regarding the budgets and running costs of the Innovation and Investment hubs and this will be met by our planned publication. In the meantime, there is a greater public interest in taking the time necessary to ensure the information has been properly collated and checked before it is published as planned. Also, we see no public interest in disrupting our programme of work to release the information ahead of the intended publication date.

Section 29(1)(a).

An exemption under section 29(1)(a) of FOISA (formulation or development of government policy) applies to some of the information requested because it relates to the development of the Scottish Government's Innovation and Investment Hubs.

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 on the location of the Hubs and staffing appointments 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.

Section 30(b)(ii).

An exemption under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation.

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 of free and frank discussions on the specific locations of Hubs and staffing requirements will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, particularly because these discussions are still ongoing and final decisions have not been taken.

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 explore and refine the Government's policy position on the location of the Hubs and the staffing required until the Government as a whole can adopt a final decision that is sound and likely to be effective. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, 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.

Section 30(c).

An exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) applies to some of the information requested. It is essential for Ministers and Officials to be able to communicate and meet, often in confidence, with external stakeholders on a range of issues, including the location and funding of future Innovation and Investment Hubs. Disclosing information about these meetings, particularly without the consent of the stakeholder, is likely to undermine their trust in the Scottish Government and will substantially inhibit communications on this type of issue in the future. These stakeholders will be reluctant to participate in meetings if they believe that their views are likely to be made public, particularly while these discussions are still ongoing and decisions have not been taken. This would significantly harm the Government's ability to carry out many aspects of its work, and could adversely affect its ability to gather all of the evidence it needs to make fully informed decisions. 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 meet with appropriate external stakeholders as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's policy position on the location of Innovation and Investment Hubs until the Government as a whole can adopt a decision that is sound and likely to be effective.

This private space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good decisions can be taken based on fully informed advice and evidence, such as that provided by the British Embassy and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between the Scottish Government and these stakeholders, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, which would not be in the public interest.

Section 38(1)(b).

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to a small amount of information requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. names of Hub staff and officials involved in the planning process 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.

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