ScotGEM bursary: FOI release

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

FOI reference: FOI/18/01444
Date received: 22 May 2018
Date responded: 13 June 2018

Information requested

Details of the decisions and creation of the ScotGEM bursary.


Who developed the policy for this bursary?

The ScotGEM programme, including the bursary, forms part of a package of measures, developed by the Scottish Government and announced by the First Minister in January 2016. Information on the bursary was first announced on 27 July 2017, further information can be found at the following web address /news/bursaries-for-new-graduate-medicine-course/

Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website(s) listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.

Can I receive information regarding these deliberations?

The answer to your question is the ScotGEM bursary was introduced as part of a package of measures to create a more sustainable medical workforce, with a particular focus on increasing the supply of doctors into specialities, such general practice, where a shortage has been identified and retaining more doctors to work in rural communities.

The bursary was specifically introduced with the intention of linking it to a 'return of service' scheme to support the aim of recruiting and retaining more doctors in NHS Scotland, particularly in our rural communities, whereby students applying for a bursary agree to commitment to work in NHS Scotland for one year for each bursary awarded. A similar bursary scheme existed in dentistry in Scotland and this scheme informed the development of policy in this area.

While our aim to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because exemptions under sections 28(1) (relations within the UK), section 29(1)(a) (formulation or development of government policy), section 29(1)(b) (Ministerial communications) and section 36(1) (Confidentiality in relation to legal advice) of FOISA apply to this information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained below.

Why am I not eligible for a similar arrangement?

As already discussed the ScotGEM bursary has been developed with the specific focus of increasing supply and retention of doctors in those specialities experiencing particular recruitment challenges. You are eligible to apply to ScotGEM if you have achieved a 1 st or a good 2.1 Honours degree. Applicants who are on, or have been on, a medicine degree course will not be considered.

Why is my unique service to date and desire to commit myself to NHS service not addressed in the response?

I hope the information provided answers the questions you have raised. I would also like to assure you that we very much value your commitment to the NHS in Scotland. As I discussed earlier, the ScotGEM bursary has been introduced to address particular circumstances and, other than dentistry which offers a means tested bursary, I am not aware that this arrangement has been introduced for any other programme.

Reasons for not providing information

Exemptions apply, subject to the public interest test.

An exemption under section 28(1) (relations within the UK), 29(1)(a) (formulation or development of government policy, 29 (1)(b) (Ministerial Communications) and 36(1) (confidentiality in legal proceeding), of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested.

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 high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development of policies and decisions. In respect of the section 29 exemptions 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 condour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions on the Bursary planned to be introduced as part of the ScotGEM programme 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. In addition, Ministers require a private space within which policy positions can be explored and refined, until the Government as a whole can adopt a policy that is sound and likely to be effective. This private thinking space also allows for all options to be properly considered, so that good policy 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 policy making process.

An exemption under section 28(1) of FOISA (relations in the UK) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would , or would be likely to, prejudice substantially relations between the Scottish Government and the UK Government. It is essential for the effective administration of the UK as a whole that there should be regular, and often private, communications between the Scottish Government, the UK Government and the other devolved administrations. The release of these communications about development of the ScotGEM Bursary will mean that the UK Government is likely to be more reluctant to share such information with the Scottish Government in future, which would reduce both the frequency and openness of communications between the Scottish Government and other UK administrations.

In respect of section 36(1) we also recognise that there is some public interest in release as part of open and transparent government, and to inform public debate. However, this is outweighed by the strong public interest in maintaining the right to confidentiality of communications between legal advisers and clients, to ensure that Ministers and officials are able to receive legal advice in confidence, like any other public or private organisation.

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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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