Expanding provision of free childcare from 600 hours year: FOI release

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

FOI reference: FOI/18/02304
Date received: 24 August 2018  
Date responded: 4 October 2018
Information requested
You asked for details of any civil servants briefings, notes or prepared documents in 2018 on the topic of expanding the provision of free childcare from 600 hours a year, in relation to the costs involved, the likelihood of reaching targets, the necessary infrastructure required and the reaction from private businesses and local authorities.
I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested in the Annex to this letter. 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 exemptions under Sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii), free and frank provision of advice, of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why those exemptions apply are explained below.
Reasons for not providing information
An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test.
Exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) applies to some of 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 officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to Scottish Ministers before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank material on the expansion of early learning and childcare will substantially inhibit the provision of such briefing in the future, particularly because discussions are still ongoing and some decisions have not yet been taken.
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 as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s policy position on the expansion of early learning and childcare, until the Government as a whole can adopt a policy 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 policy 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.
About FOI

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
FOI-18-02304 - Annex - related documents


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 

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