- 20 Nov 2018
Date received: 21 September 2018
Date responded: 16 November 2018
1. You asked for; “any information you hold on the Scottish Government's Working Group to establish a legal definition of sectarianism.”
2. “minutes and records of any meetings of the working group and any discussion between members, including correspondence of any kind between members or government employees or MSP’s.”
3. “any reports, findings or research of the working group.”
Please find some of the information to your request including the group minutes and final report of the Working Group on Tackling Sectarianism in Scots Law here; https://www.gov.scot/groups/legal-definition-of-sectarianism-working-group/
I enclose a copy of some of the other information you requested.
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; s.36(1) Confidentiality in legal proceedings, s30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views for the purpose of deliberation) s.29(1)(a) (policy formulation), s.38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why that exemption(s) applies are explained below.
1. Exemptions under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. This exemption applies because it is personal data relating to an identified or identifiable natural person, such as the names (or other identifying information) of officials and other natural persons. Disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018. This exemption is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.
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 release as part of an open and transparent government and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly constructed implementation of policies and decisions. This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications.
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 briefing for Parliamentary Question answers, press lines and lines to take. It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers can properly answer Parliamentary Questions, provide sound information to Parliament (to which they are accountable) and robustly defend the Government's policies and decisions. 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.
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