Social Security Programme Board: FOI release

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

FOI reference: FOI/18/01032
Date received: 23 March 2018
Date responded: 23 April 2018

Information requested

The options appraisals provided to the Social Security Programme Board in the past year, specifically including options appraisals where technology platforms are assessed and evaluated for decision by the board, under the "re-use" criteria.


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 other officials before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on options appraisals to the Social Security Programme Board will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because these discussions relate to sensitive issues.

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 other officials, as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's position on social security. 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. Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the documentation supporting options appraisals 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.

I have, however, provided some of the information that was presented to Programme Board on the 24th of October 2017 regarding Component Services Options Appraisal, of which the detailed exemption does not apply. Some of the information you have requested is also already publicly available (the Social Security Agency: Central Functions Locations Analysis): /publications/central-functions-social-security-agency-location-analysis-phase-1-phase/

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Please quote the FOI reference

Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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