Publication - FOI/EIR release

Regional Improvement Collaboratives: FOI release

Published: 28 Mar 2018
Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.
Published:
28 Mar 2018
Regional Improvement Collaboratives: FOI release

FOI reference: FOI/18/00582
Date received: 21 February 2018
Date responded: 21 March 2018

Information requested

  • All communication (internal and external) regarding/discussing Regional Improvement Collaboratives; and
  • Any other materials held regarding/discussing Regional Improvement Collaboratives.

Response

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 an exemption(s) under section(s) 29(1)(a) (formulation or development of Scottish Government policy), 30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice), 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) and/or 30(c) (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) and 38(1)(b) (personal information), of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why those exemptions apply are explained below.

REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION

An exemption under section 29(1)(a) of FOISA (development or formulation of Scottish Government policy) applies to some of the redacted information.

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 options for the further development of Regional Improvement Collaboratives 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.

An exemption under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) applies to some 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 and other officials before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on the development of Regional Improvement Collaboratives will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because discussions on the next stage of their development are ongoing.

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 position on the further development of the collaboratives. 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.

An exemption under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) 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 issues and options with external stakeholders before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of these discussions with local government on the establishment and continued development of Regional Improvement Collaboratives will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, because these stakeholders will be reluctant to provide their views fully and frankly if they believe that those views are likely to be made public, particularly while discussions on the continued development of the Regional Improvement Collaboratives are still ongoing.

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 communicate with appropriate external stakeholders as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's position on the ongoing development of Regional Improvement Collaboratives, until the Government as a whole can adopt a position 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 developing collaboratives. 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. There is also an important public interest in avoiding the loss of stakeholder confidence in cases where they thought they were providing comments in confidence, which would be inevitable if an individual's contribution was released against their wishes.

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, often in confidence, with external stakeholders on a range of issues, including on the establishment and continued development of regional Improvement Collaboratives. Disclosing this information, 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 provide full and frank information and views if they believe that they are likely to be made public, particularly while the detailed development of each Regional Improvement Collaborative is still ongoing. 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 communicate and meet with appropriate external stakeholders as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's position on the continued development of Regional Improvement Collaboratives, until the Government as a whole can adopt a decision on its future relationship with the Regional Improvement Collaboratives 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. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between the Scottish Government and its stakeholders, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, which would not be in the public interest.

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the redacted information because it is the personal data of third party, i.e. names/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.

About FOI

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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