- 22 Oct 2018
Date received: 8 October 2018
Date responded: 12 October 2018
- I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested in Annex I.
- Some of the information you have requested is available online and I have provided a list of the relevant web links in Annex II. Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the websites listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.
- a range of resources on taxpayers’ behavioural responses and I have included the most relevant web links in Annex II for ease of reference
- 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 27(1) (information intended for future publication) and section 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained below.
Reasons for not providing information
An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test:
- An exemption under section 27(1) of FOISA (information intended for future publication) applies to one document, the minutes of the August 2018 teleconference with the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), because we intend to publish this information, in the form of a call readout, by December 2018, which is within 12 weeks of the date of your request. We consider that it is reasonable to withhold the information until that date, rather than release this information before the planned publication date.
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 some public interest in releasing this information because the Council provides expert advise to the First Minister and this interest will be met by our planned publication. In the meantime, there is a greater public interest in taking the time necessary to ensure the information has been properly collated and checked before it is published as planned. Also, we see no public interest in disrupting our programme of work to release the information ahead of the intended publication date.
The minutes will be made available on the same website that provides minutes for previous CEA calls or meetings: https://beta.gov.scot/groups/council-of-economic-advisers/
- An exemption under section 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. This exemption recognises the need for Officials to have a private space within which to discuss issues and options with external stakeholders as well as Ministers before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view.
Disclosing the content of these discussions with the Council of Economic Advisers, the Office for Budget Responsibility and the Scottish Fiscal Commission on taxpayer behaviour will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, because these stakeholders will be reluctant to provide their views fully and frankly if they believe that those views are likely to be made public, particularly while these discussions are ongoing and may feed into the income tax forecasts for the next Draft Budget 2019-20.
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 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 policy position on income tax not only for 2018-19 but also for future years, in particular in an area such as taxpayer behaviour which remains subject to conflicting evidence and on-going debate as income tax devolution is a relatively recent phenomenon.
This private space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good policy decisions can be taken based on fully informed advice and evidence, such as that provided by the fiscal forecasters and the Council of Economic Advisers. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between the Scottish Government and these stakeholders on the one hand and Officials and Ministers on the other, which in turn will undermine the quality of the policy 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 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