Correspondence regarding Audit Scotland's publication on Scotland's colleges: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

FOI reference: FOI/18/02256  
Date received: 24 August 2018  
Date responded: 20 September 2018
Information requested
Details of any meetings or correspondence (emails, typed or handwritten notes, letters, phone calls, minutes of meetings, documents or otherwise) between Scottish Government ministers, senior civil servants, special advisers or communications staff regarding the following publication prior to its release date, including the original draft of the publication that was sent to ministers, senior civil servants, special advisers or communications staff:
I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested.

For clarity, senior civil servants in the Scottish Government are those individuals of Deputy Director level and above. The draft report that you have requested was sent to Scottish Government Ministers by civil servants (not senior civil servants). However, within our aim to be as helpful as possible under FOISA we have enclosed a copy of the Draft Audit Scotland 2018 report. Additionally, we have also enclosed a copy of the Ministers media communication that was made at the time of the release of Audit Scotland’s report, while this was made public you may not have ready access to this, as such we have included it.

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)(ii) of FOISA applies to that information and Scottish Government does not have some of the information you have requested details of. The reasons why that exemption(s) applies are explained below.
Reasons for not providing information
An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test

Section 30(b)(ii) - free and frank exchange of views - in relation to communications
Exemptions under sections 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank advice and exchange of views) apply to some 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 press lines are used. Disclosing the content of free and frank briefing material on press lines relating to the Audit Scotland report will substantially inhibit the exchange of views in the future, particularly because a range of responses are considered and maybe used in future media releases.

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 press lines. It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers can properly make a decision on the press lines that relate to the Scottish Governments position. 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.
About FOI
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at
foi-18-02256 Ministers Statement
foi-18-02256 Draft Audit Scotland 2018 report


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government 
St Andrew's House 
Regent Road 


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