- 15 Aug 2018
FOI reference: FOI/18/01783
Date received: 28 June 2018
Date responded: 13 August 2018
Information relating to the publication of photos of farmed salmon and salmon farms - including any correspondence (e.g. emails and letters) with salmon farming companies, the RSPCA, SSPCA, Government officials and any other parties. This relates to the release of such photographs in response to a previous request for information from you. Our reference for that request is FoI/18/01141. You further requested details of how the industry stakeholders were consulted prior to the release of the information and details of how the companies affected were made aware of the release date of information and publication.
As the information you have requested is 'environmental information' for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.
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, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide a small amount of the information you have requested because exceptions under regulation 10(4)(e) (internal communications) and 11(2) (personal data) of the EIRs apply to that information. The reasons why these exceptions apply are explained below.
In line with section 7 of the Scottish Government https://beta.gov.scot/publications/foi-eir-section-60-code-of-practice/ on Freedom of Information requests, as supported by the Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner, Marine Scotland consulted with the industry stakeholders to which the information related prior to the reply being issued. As you are aware, this information was released. In line with good practice the companies affected were made aware of the release date of information and publication on the Scottish Government's website. We have released documents that show how this process worked in practice in relation to FoI/18/01141 and the release of photographs.
The PDF files - Annex 1 - Context to the photographs being released and Annex 2 – MSS response to comments from stakeholders regarding EIRs exce. were issued as attachments to at email sent from MARLAB to various stakeholders on 14 June 2018 at 22:04.
The PDF file – Email attachment – argument from SSF – email sent 12 June 2018 17:49 was sent as an attachment to an email from Scottish Sea Farms to MARLAB on 12 June 2018 at 17:49.
We hold no communications with the RSPCA or the SSPCA on this matter.
Reasons for not providing information
An exception under regulation 10(4)(e) of the EIRs (internal communications) applies to a small amount the information you have requested because it is internal communication between Scottish Government officials about how future requests might be handled.
This exception 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 exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. We recognise that there is some public interest in release 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. 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 candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions on future and theoretical handling of requests will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain how we can handle future requests, reviews and appeals.
A further exception under regulation 11(2) of the EIRs (personal information) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act 1998. This exception 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 exception.
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
Please quote the FOI reference:
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House