Publication - FOI/EIR release

Michael Russell's trip to Ireland in November 2017: FOI release

Published: 17 Jul 2018

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

Published:
17 Jul 2018
Michael Russell's trip to Ireland in November 2017: FOI release

FOI reference: FOI/18/01697
Date received: 19 June 2018
Date responded: 16 July 2018

Information requested

The ministerial diary for Mike Russell for when he was in Ireland from 24 to 25 November including engagements and who he met with; I would also like to ask for his personal costs associated with the visit and for any staff who accompanied him; for correspondence on the trip and for the job titles of the staff that accompanied him.

For ease, I have split your request into 4 asks:

1. Engagements of Minister Russell while in Ireland 24/25 November and who he met with.

2. The personal costs associated to Mr Russell for this trip and those of supporting officials.

3. Correspondence on the trip.

4. Job titles of accompanying officials.

Response

1. Information about Ministerial engagements (including overseas engagements) are published on the Scottish Government website. They can be found in first tab of each monthly spread sheet:

https://beta.gov.scot/publications/ministerial-engagements-travel-and-gifts-november-2017/

2. The Scottish Government does not have the information you have asked for because we do not keep records of personal costs to staff when attending engagements.

This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested. The answer to your question is as below.

Ministerial overseas visits are published on the Scottish Government website. Details include all Ministerial costs associated with the visit. They can be found in the second tab of each monthly spread sheet: https://beta.gov.scot/publications/ministerial-engagements-travel-and-gifts-november-2017/

For your information, I enclose all costs met by Scottish Government for staff on the visit:

Job Title Total Cost for Accompanying Officials
Private Secretary to Mr Russell £585.83
Brexit Communications Team Leader £361.48
Head of Innovation and Investment Hub in Ireland £95.00

3. I enclose copies of some of the information you requested.

While our aim is to provide information wherever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) (substantial inhibition of free and frank provision of advice) and 32(1)(b) (confidential information obtained from any other State or international organisation) of FOISA. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained below.

4a. As above, the answer to your question is the Minister was accompanied by his Private Secretary, and Brexit Communications Team Leader. In Ireland he was also accompanied by Scottish Government Head of the Innovation and Investment Hub in Ireland.

Reasons for not providing information

An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test.

An exemption under sections 30(b)(i) (substantial inhibition of free and frank provision of advice)and 32(1)(b) (confidential information obtained from any other State or international organisation)of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. Disclosing the content of free and frank exchanges and briefing material on engagement with another UK administration and foreign government substantially inhibit such briefing in the future.

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 government Ministers can exchange information and officials can provide full and frank advice to Ministers, as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's position on Brexit and in strengthening Scotland's bilateral relations with other UK administrations and other governments. This private space is essential to enable officials to brief openly and honestly, based on the best available advice, so that relationships can be maintained. Disclosure of such information, is likely to undermine the quality of briefing and advice, which would not be in the public interest.

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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