- 17 Oct 2018
Date received: 28 September 2018
Date responded: 11 October 2018
(2) For each loan, to provide the following details: name of party; date loan granted; amount of loan; purpose of loan; interest rate charged; basis of repayment; current balance (amount owed).
In terms of part (2) of your request, I acknowledge that we did not provide the information in the level of detail you had requested, nor did we apply an exemption to that information. As part of my review, I have gone on to consider this part of your request further. I have concluded that the original decision should be confirmed with some modifications.
In Annex 1, I have enclosed a copy of some of the information you have requested.
However, I am unable to provide the further details requested in respect of loan facilities and equity investments over £1.5 million as noted in the table because exemptions under section 38(1)(b) (personal data) section 30(c) (effective conduct of public affairs), and section 33(1)(b) (commercial interests) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why that exemption(s) applies are explained below.
It is essential for officials to be able to communicate, often in confidence, with external stakeholders on a range of issues, including issues of an operational or financial nature. The Scottish Government can only provide effective support to some loan recipients where this is provided in confidence with some degree of anonymity due to the nature in of the environment in which the loan recipient operates. It is important that the Scottish Government is able to engage effectively in discussions to ensure that any financial support or other issues are supported as robustly as possible and that sufficient research has been undertaken, sought, communicated and developed to ensure that we are engaging in work that is in the interests of best value for the people of Scotland before consideration of whether financial funding should be provided and when.
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. We acknowledge that there is also a public interest in providing information which informs Scottish Government decisions and allows scrutiny of the appropriate use of public funds.
However, we have determined that there is a greater public interest in allowing Ministers and officials a private space within which to communicate with appropriate external stakeholders as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s position on the operations and financial position of loan applicants and to determine the appropriateness of continued support. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the quality of the decision making process, which would not be in the public interest. Additionally there is also a strong public interest in protecting the Scottish Government’s ability to secure the best value, disclosing the full terms of loans provided would undermine our ability to achieve best value, because it would set a precedent and reveal out negotiating position which in turn would not be in the public interest.
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 disclosure of the recipient and the purpose of the loan (in general terms to support economic activity) would be endangered if the details were not protected. We recognise that there is strong public interest in releasing the information because loan arrangements should be as transparent as possible. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in ensuring that the purpose for which the loan(s) is made is not undermined by releasing information which worsens the loan recipients’ commercial position and therefore threatens the continuation of economic activity from which the public benefits.
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