Correspondence with Scottish Sea Farms relating to information on ova: EIR review

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

FOI reference: FOI/18/02017 Review  
Date received: 11 October 2018 
Date responded: 5 November 2018
Information requested
Further to my letter of 23rd Oct. 2018, I have now completed my review of our response to your request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) for: 
  • correspondence (e.g. emails and letters) to and from Scottish Sea Farms relating to the redacting of ova data;
  • any other information relating to Scottish Sea Farms refusing to disclose information on ova.

I have concluded that the original decision should be confirmed with modifications.

The Original response was refused for the following reason:
“An exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) applies to the information requested. Disclosing this information would substantially prejudice our ability to conduct the related review, and to deal with any future appeal that may be made on that case. Information relating to why the Scottish Government initially withheld Scottish Sea Farms ova import data will be reviewed by the internal reviewer. Releasing this information into the public domain before this process has been completed would substantially prejudice the review process. This would constitute substantial prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs in terms of the exemption.
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. However, there is a greater public interest in protecting the process of FOI reviews and appeals, and ensuring that the Scottish Government is able conduct this aspect of its business effectively.”
Although the above mentioned related review is now complete, the period where the right of appeal may be enacted is still live, therefore, at this time, the reasoning for the refusal and exemption still applies because releasing the information would substantially prejudice the appeals process. I have however determined that the exemption under section 30(c) (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) of FOISA does not apply to the correspondence in its entirety. I have therefore concluded that it is appropriate to release redacted versions of the communications.
An exemption(s) under section(s) s.38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA also applies to some of the information you have requested. 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.
The appropriately redacted e-mail chain between Marine Scotland Science and Scottish Sea Farms can be found attached.
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foi-18-02017-review Information requested


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