- 9 Aug 2018
FOI reference: FOI/18/01867
Date received: 8 July 2018
Date responded: 7 August 2018
Any ministerial briefing material pertaining to the social security portfolio prepared in the aftermath of the June 2018 ministerial reshuffle in the Scottish Government for the new Cabinet Secretary.
I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested.
Some of the information you have requested is available from:
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 websites listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.
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 exemptions under section s.29(1)(a) of FOISA (the formulation or development of government policy), s.29(1)(b) (Ministerial Communications), s.30(b)(i) (free and frank exchange of views), and s.30(b)(ii) (free and frank provision of advice) apply to some of that information. The reasons why those exemptions apply are explained below.
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to a small amount of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, ie names of individuals below Senior Civil Service (SCS) have been redacted as disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles under General Data Protection 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.
Reasons for not providing information
Exemptions under section s.29(1)(a) and 29(b) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested because it relates to the formulation of the Scottish Government's policy and Ministerial Communcation between Scottish Ministers on several policy areas.
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 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 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 a number of policy areas will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government's view on these policies while still under discussion and development.
Exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank advice and exchange of views) apply to some of the information requested. These exemptions apply because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. The exemptions recognise the need for Ministers to have a private space within which to seek advice and views from officials before reaching the settled public position which will be given in whatever final lines to take are used. Disclosing the content of free and frank briefing material on several policy areas will substantially inhibit such briefing in the future, particularly because discussions on the issue are still ongoing and final decisions have not been taken.
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 exemptions. 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 allowing a private space within which officials can provide free and frank advice and views to Ministers in lines to take. It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers can properly answer Parliamentary questions, provide sound information to Parliament (to which they are accountable), and robustly defend the Government's policies and decisions. They need full and candid advice from officials to enable them to do so. Premature disclosure of this type of information could lead to a reduction in the comprehensiveness and frankness of such advice and views in the future, which would not be in the public interest.
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 Andrew's House