- 30 Aug 2018
FOI reference: FOI/18/02055
Date received: 31 July 2018
Date responded: 29 August 2018
From 1 January 2016 to present:
- any assessment SAAS has made (or has commissioned others to make) of the impact the UK leaving the European Union is likely to have in SAAS, and;
- any preparations SAAS is making or contingency plans SAAS have prepared for the UK leaving the European Union in all possible scenarios including a ‘no deal’ Brexit
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some the information you have requested because an exemption under section, 30(b)(i) (free and frank exchange of advice) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why that exemption applies are explained below.
I enclose a copy of the information we hold, which falls within the scope of your request:
- MB(16-17)18 - Paper titled ‘EU Referendum’ – SAAS Management Board, 20 July 2016.
- SAAS Management Board (now SAAS Board) – Minutes - 20 July 2016 – Item 3.1 and Item 7 EU Referendum.
- SB(17-18)4-8 - Paper titled ‘EU Brexit’ - SAAS Board, 27 September 2017.
- SAAS Board – Minutes - 27 September 2017 - Item 18 EU Brexit.
- AC(17-18)2-9 – Paper titled ‘Brexit Update’ SAAS Advisory Committee - 8 November 2017.
- SAAS Advisory Committee – Minutes - 8 November 2017 - Item 4.3 and 12 Brexit Update.
For ease the minutes have been attached in full, they are also published on the SAAS website http://www.saas.gov.uk/about_us/classes_of_information.htm.
The Scottish Government Higher Education and Science (HES) Division continue to lead on any dialogue with universities and colleges on all matters Brexit. They will notify Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) of any significant developments on Higher Education funding, as Brexit negotiations progress. Our role will be to ensure the SG policy position is reflected in our guidance, literature, and IT systems and SAAS will continue to provide updates via the SAAS website.
Reasons for not providing information
An exemption under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) applies to some the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice. This exemption recognises the need for Ministers and officials to have a private space within which to discuss and explore options before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on the Workforce Impact Questionnaire commissioned by Fair Work as part of their Public Service Workforce Impact Project will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because discussions are still on going and decisions have not been taken, and these discussions relate to a sensitive issue.
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 a private space within which officials can provide full and frank advice to Ministers and officials as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s position on the workforce impacts of leaving the DU, until the Government as a whole can adopt a decision that is sound and likely to be effective. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, based on the best available advice, so that good decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between Ministers and officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, 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 https://www.gov.scot/foi-responses
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House