Information

FOI requests from 2015: communications with Royal Household: FOI release

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


FOI reference: FOI/18/01584
Date received: 6 June 2018
Date responded: 5 July 2018

Information requested

All communication between the Scottish Government and the Royal Household (including their representatives) discussing FOI requests received by the Scottish Government related to the Royal household/Royal family. The timeframe for this request is 01/01/2015 - 31/12/2015.

You clarified on 7 June 2018 that you were specifically interested in material to do with the Prince of Wales.

Response

I have enclosed most of the information you have requested as a separate document to this letter.

No documents have been withheld in their entirety, however in this instance we have redacted some information from the documents provided because exemptions under sections 30(b)(ii) (Free and frank exchange of views), 38(1)(b) (personal information) and 41(a) (communications with Her Majesty, etc.) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained below.

Reasons for not providing information

An exemption under section 38(1)(b)(personal information) applies to some of the information you have requested. This exemption applies because the information is personal data of a third party, and so it is subject to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 (the DPA 2018). 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.

An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test.

An exemption under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views) applies to a small portion 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 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 the Royal Household on the handling of Freedom of Information requests 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.

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 response to FOI requests. 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 Royal Household. 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.

An exemption under section 41(a) of FOISA (communications with Her Majesty, the Royal Family or the Royal Household) applies to some of the information requested because it relates to communications with the Royal Household.

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 some public interest in release as part of open and transparent government.

However, this is outweighed by the greater public interest in protecting a channel of communication between the Scottish Government, and the Royal Household. Disclosing the content of such communications, particularly against the wishes of the Royal Household, is likely to mean that such future communications will be less open and less frequent, with less exchange of information on matters of mutual interest, which would not be in the public interest.

About FOI

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

FOI-18-01584 - related documents.pdf

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

Back to top