FOI reference: FOI/18/02896
Date received: 6 October 2018
Date responded: 8 November 2018
You asked for all records of contact between Link Group Ltd and Scottish Government More Homes Division in relation to the transfer of land at Ravenscraig Hospital in Inverclyde.
1. I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested.
2. Some of the information you have requested is contained within the planning application currently lodged with Inverclyde Council for the development of the former Ravenscraig Hospital site. As part of our contact with Link Group we considered copies of site plans and the transport impact assessment. These can be viewed through the planning portal, https://www.inverclyde.gov.uk/planning-and-the-environment/planningapplications/how-to-view-planning-applications
, under reference 18/0205/IC. 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 website(s) listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.
3. 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 an exemption(s) under section(s) s.30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) and s.33(1)(b) (commercial interests), of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained below.
Reasons for not providing information
Section 30(b)(ii) – free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation [in relation to communications/meetings with external stakeholders].
An exemption under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views) applies to some of the information 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 before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of these discussions with Link Group Ltd, Inverclyde Council and the NHS on the future of the Ravenscraig Hospital site 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 still ongoing and decisions have not 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 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 position on the availability of public subsidy for this site, until the Government as a whole can adopt a decision that is sound and likely to be effective. This private space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good decisions can be taken based on fully informed advice and evidence, such as that provided by Link Group Ltd, Inverclyde Council and the NHS.Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between the Scottish Government and these stakeholders, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, which would not be in the public interest.There is also an important public interest in avoiding the loss of stakeholder confidence in cases where they thought they were providing comments in confidence, which would be inevitable if an individual’s contribution was released against their wishes.
Section 33(1)(b) – commercial interests.
An exemption under section 33(1)(b) of FOISA (commercial interests) applies to some of the information requested.
This exemption applies because disclosure of this particular information would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the commercial interests of Link Group Ltd. Disclosing this information would be likely to give any contractors tendering for work in relation to the development of this site an advantage in the tendering exercises, which would substantially prejudice Link Group Ltd’s ability to attract competitive tenders and so could significantly harm their ability to ensure best value for money through any tendering exercise.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 and transparent government, and to help account for the expenditure of public money.However, there is a greater public interest in protecting the commercial interests of companies who enter into Scottish Government contracts, to ensure that we are always able to obtain the best value for public money.
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