Publication - FOI/EIR release

National Loan and Less Favoured Area Support Schemes: FOI release

Published: 12 Apr 2018

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

Published:
12 Apr 2018
National Loan and Less Favoured Area Support Schemes: FOI release

FOI reference: FOI/18/00759
Date received: 12 March 2018
Date responded: 10 April 2018

Information requested

1. Any correspondence between Fergus Ewing and Scottish Government officials outlining a national loan scheme in advance of the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme 2017 (LFASS).

2. Any correspondence between Fergus Ewing and Scottish Government officials on the announcement at the NFU Scotland AGM in Glasgow of a national loan scheme in advance of the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme 2017 (LFASS).

3. Any correspondence between Fergus Ewing and Scottish Government officials discussing the performance of the IT system which deals with the administration of farm payments.

4. Any correspondence between Scottish Government officials and the local RPID area offices regarding the allocation of funds for Agri-Environment Climate Schemes.

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 exemptions under the following sections of FOISA apply: s.29(1)(b) (Ministerial communications); s.30(b)(i) (Free and frank provision of advice); and s.38(1)(b) (Personal data). The reasons why those exemptions apply are explained in the Annex to this letter.

1. Please see enclosed documents 1. – 3.1.

Information on the National LFASS loan scheme can be found via the URL link below:

https://www.ruralpayments.org/publicsite/futures/topics/all-schemes/national-loan-schemes/national-lfass-2017-18

2. Please see enclosed document 4.

3. In order to identify and locate the information that you have asked for we need some further information from you. In particular, it would be helpful to know more specifically what is meant by IT performance and to which of our IT systems, functions and aspects of technical operability and performance you refer. If you would like to provide additional information about this element of your request, please write to me.

4. Please see enclosed documents 5. and 6.

Reasons for not providing information

An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test.

An exemption under section 29(1)(b) of FOISA (Ministerial communications) applies to some of the information requested because it relates to communications between Scottish Ministers.

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 a private space within which issues can be explored and refined, until the Government as a whole can reach a decision that is sound and likely to be effective. This private thinking space also allows for 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, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision-making process.

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 before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on arrangements for the implementation of an LFASS loan scheme will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly where draft Ministerial communications are involved.

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, as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's position on an LFASS loan scheme, 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.

An exemption under section s.38(1)(b) (Personal data) of FOISA applies to a small amount of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. the names and contact details of more junior officials, as well as mobile numbers etc., and disclosing that data 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