Date received: 26 June 2018
Date responded: 10 August 2018
- information relating to Mr Wheelhouse visit to Spain from 14 to 15 February including engagements and who he met with;
- 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.
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:
Ministerial overseas visits are also 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:
Total Cost for Accompanying Officials
Head of Large Scale Renewables
Energy Asia Team Leader
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 an exemption(s) under section 30(b)(ii) – free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation and section 33(1)(b) – commercial interestsof FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why that exemption(s) applies are explained below.
Section 30(b)(ii) – free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation
An exemption under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views) applies to some 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 Ministers 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 ACS Cobra; GRI Gestamp; and EDPR on15 February 2018will 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, particularly while these discussions are still ongoing and decisions have not been taken, and/or these discussions relate to a sensitive or controversial issue such as contractual information.
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 position on commercial discussions, until the Government as a whole can adopt a decision that is sound and likely to be effective. 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 ACS Cobra; GRI Gestamp; and EDPR. Premature 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 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, which would be inevitable if an individual’s contribution was released against their wishes.
Section 33(1)(b) – commercial interests
An exemption under section 33(1)(b) of FOISA (commercial interests) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure of this particular information would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the commercial interests of ACS Cobra; GRI Gestamp; and EDPR. Contractual information relating to particular projects, eg Disclosing this information would be likely to give X’s competitors an advantage in future similar tendering exercises, which would substantially prejudice X’s ability to submit competitive tenders and so could significantly harm their commercial business.
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 and transparent government, and to help account for the expenditure of public money.About FOI
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at https://www.gov.scot/foi-responses
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