Publication - FOI/EIR release

Documents relating to mountain hares and Coull Links Development: EIR release

Information request and response under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004.

Published:
24 Aug 2018
Documents relating to mountain hares and Coull Links Development: EIR release

FOI reference: FOI/18/02014
Date received: 24 July 2018 
Date responded: 22 August 2018
 
Information requested

1.  All correspondence relating to mountain hares between the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and

 (i) the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Land Reform and Climate change​ in 2017 and 2018.

          (ii) the Scottish Government in 2017 and 2018

2.  All correspondence relating to the proposed Coul Links development between the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and ​​

        (i) the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Land Reform and Climate change

​        in 2017 and 2018.

          (ii) the Scottish Government in 2017 and 2018

Response

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, 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.

I enclose a copy of some of the information you have requested.

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 exceptions under regulations 10(4)(e) internal communications of the EIRs applies to that information.  The reasons why these exceptions apply are explained below.

Reasons for not providing information

Regulation 10(4)(e) – internal communications 

An exception under regulation 10(4)(e) of the EIRs (internal communications) applies to some of the information you have requested because it is internal communication about briefings and press lines/ lines to take

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 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 briefings and press lines/ lines to take.  It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers can properly 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.

 An exception under regulation 10(4)(e) of the EIRs (internal communications) also applies to some of the information you have requested because it is internal communication between Ministers and officials about developing policy about 1) mountain hares and 2) Coul Links.

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 mountain hares will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government’s view on that issue while it is still under discussion and development. 

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

FOI-18-02014 - related documents

50 page PDF
1.3 MB

Contact

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