- 22 Mar 2018
FOI reference: FOI/18/00542
Date received: 19 February2018
Date responded: 19 March 2018
The content of all documents that include discussion of possible launch locations for the Scottish Government report Scotland's Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment, which was published in January this year. Your request asked that this include any relevant emails, reports and minutes of meetings and where appropriate text messages and social media messages by Scottish Government employees on this subject.
I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested. In addition to the separate attachments enclosed, Annex A contains extracts from relevant documents. The remainder of the documents from which these are extracted either do not fall within the scope of your request as it does not include discussion of possible launch locations for Scotland's Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment, or is included within the attachments enclosed.
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 30(b)(i) and (ii) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained below.
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) also applies to a small amount of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, ie contact details of individuals, 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.
Reasons for not providing information
Sections 30(b)(i) and (ii) – free and frank provision of advice, and free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation.
Exemptions under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) and (b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views) apply to some the information requested. These exemptions apply because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice, or exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. These exemptions recognise the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to other officials and to discuss issues and options with external stakeholders before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of the free and frank advice and exchange of views on possible locations for the launch of Scotland's Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice and exchange of views in the future, particularly because these discussions relate to venues considered for the launch, and furthermore, stakeholders will be reluctant to provide their views fully and frankly if they believe that those views are likely to be made public.
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 exemption. 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 Ministers and officials a private space within which to provide full and frank advice to other officials, and communicate with appropriate external stakeholders as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's position on the launch of Scotland's Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment. 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. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between Ministers and officials, and the Scottish Government and stakeholders, 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
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Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House