Publication - FOI/EIR release

Public bidding of Scotland’s Railway Franchise and Scotrail staff satisfaction: FOI review

Published: 22 Nov 2018

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

Published:
22 Nov 2018
Public bidding of Scotland’s Railway Franchise and Scotrail staff satisfaction: FOI review
FOI reference: FOI/18/02669
Date received: 30 October 2018
Date responded: 21 November 2018
 
Information requested
 

Q) Any recorded information relating to the development of options for a public bid for Scotland’s railway franchise.

Q) Copies of any reports to the Scottish Ministers on public ownership of the railways.

Q) A list of the documents which have been provided to the Scottish ministers on public ownership of railways, including authors, titles and dates the documents were sent.

Q) Copies of any documents which the Scottish Government hold containing details of internal reorganisation of staff within Scotrail since Abellio won the franchise in 2015.

Q) Copies of any information which relates to:

  • Scotrail staff satisfaction.
Response
 
Further to my email of 30 October 2018, we have now completed a review of our response to your request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) for information relating to the development of options for a public sector bid for the railway franchise. This reply relates to the first bullet point in your email – the rest are being handled as a separate, new request for information. 
 
Clarification of request 
 
When you and I spoke on 8 November 2018, I explained that the preparation of any bid for a future rail franchise – whether from the private or public sector – would take place at a later date, when a franchise competition is announced. That work would be led by the bidding organisations. You had clarified that your request relates to the development of the policy commitment by the Scottish Government to enable a public sector organisation to bid for a rail franchise in Scotland and I am responding on that basis. 
 
Review decision
 
We have concluded that the original decision should be confirmed, with modifications. Some of the information you have requested cannot be provided for the reasons cited in the original response to your request. However, we have also identified some information to which that exemption does not apply. 
 
Information released
 
Please find four documents attached to the covering email. 
 
Reasons for not providing information

Exemptions.
 
Three FOISA exemptions apply in respect of some of the information that you have requested. 
 
FOISA section 30b(ii) In line with the original response to your request, this exemption applies to some of the information you have requested 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 Ministers to have a private space within which to discuss issues and options with external stakeholders before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosure is likely to inhibit future exchanges, particularly while discussions are ongoing and where the exchanges relate to, or will inform, a sensitive issue (note that rail services operate in a commercial environment). 
 
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 that relates to the future operation of rail passenger services. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing Ministers and officials a private space within which to explore and refine the Government’s position on a public sector bid for rail services in future, until the Government as a whole can adopt a position that is sound and likely to be effective. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between Ministers and officials, and between the Scottish Government and external stakeholders, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, which would not be in the public interest.
 
FOISA section 29(1)(a) This exemption applies to some of the information you have requested because it relates to the development of the Government’s policy on a public sector bid for rail, prior to Ministerial decision/implementation. 
 
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 high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development 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. Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions on a public sector bid for rail will be disclosed in the near future, which may undermine or constrain the Government’s view on that policy while it is still under discussion and development.
 
FOISA Section 25(1)  Some of the information you have requested is already in the public domain and so, in line with the exemption at section 25(1) of FOISA, I have not replicated that information here. Please find below links to the published information. 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.
 
About FOI

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Contact

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 
Edinburgh 
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