Publication - FOI/EIR release

Introductory briefings to Richard Lochhead on assuming his new role: FOI review

Published: 17 Jan 2019

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

Published:
17 Jan 2019
Introductory briefings to Richard Lochhead on assuming his new role: FOI review
FOI reference: FOI/18/03057 Review
Date received:  29 November 2018
Date responded: 16 January 2019
 
Information requested
 
Details, including any documents, of any introductory briefings provided to Richard Lochhead when he assumed his new role in the Scottish Government recently.
 
Response
 
Further to my colleague Mr Russell’s letter of 5 December, I have now completed my review of our response to your request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) for Details, including any documents, of any introductory briefings provided to Richard Lochhead when he assumed his new role in the Scottish Government recently.

In accordance with section 21(4) of FOISA, I have also reached a decision on your request.
Firstly I would like to apologise for the delay in responding to your original request. As you will be aware, this is one of a series of requests made by you at the same time seeking details, including documentation, of any introductory briefings provided to eight different Ministers when they recently took up new Ministerial roles. Responding to these individual requests at the same time has generated a substantial burden on the Scottish Government, particularly on the private offices of the Ministers in question and on the central FOI Unit, which provides advice and support to individual case handlers.

I can now provide our response to your original request.

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) 38(1)(b) Personal Information, 29(1)(a) Formulation of Government Policy, 30(b)(i) Free and Frank Provision of Advice, 30(c) Substantial Prejudice to the Effective Conduct of Public Affairs of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why that exemption(s) applies are explained below.

Clarification
The wording in footnote number 1 on the document headed College Improvement Project contains an inaccuracy. Footnote number 1 should read. Currently around a third of students who enrol on a full time FE course for a recognised qualification fail to complete the course successfully. This trend has continued with only minor improvement since AY 2008/09 when stats started to be published.
 
Reasons for not providing information
 
An exemption(s) under section s.38(1) of FOISA (personal data of a third party) applies to some the information you have requested. the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, names/contact details of individuals, and 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 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.

An exemption under section 29(1)(a) of FOISA (formulation or development of government policy) applies to some the information requested because it relates to the formulation/development of the Scottish Government’s policy on the Directorate for Advanced Learning and Science Programme for Government commitments and Scottish Government’s policy on the Independent Review of Student Support.

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 Directorate for Advanced Learning and Science Programme for Government commitments and Independent Review of Student Support will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government’s view on that policy while it is still under discussion and development.

An exemption under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) applies to some the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to Ministers before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on issues relating to the new ministers portfolio will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because these discussions are still ongoing and decisions have not been taken, and/or these discussions relate to a sensitive or controversial issue such as surrounding National Bargaining.

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 issues relating to the new ministers portfolio 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 policy making process, which would not be in the public interest.

An exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) applies to some the information requested. Disclosing this information would substantially prejudice our ability to conduct recommendations made to Ministers on appointments or selections, and related discussions because applies because disclosure of the details of discussions about the assessment of candidates, would be likely to inhibit the Scottish Government’s ability to run successful selection exercises in future. Disclosing the content of advice/discussions about one selection exercise would be likely to deter well-qualified people from offering themselves as candidates for future public appointments, because they would not want comment on their merits and abilities to be made public. This would constitute substantial prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs in terms of 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 a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government. However, there is a greater public interest in protecting the process of recommendations made to Ministers on appointments or selections, and related discussions because applies because disclosure of the details of discussions about the assessment of candidates, would be likely to inhibit the Scottish Government’s ability to run successful selection exercises in future and ensuring that the Scottish Government is able conduct this aspect of its business effectively. Disclosing the content of advice/discussions about one selection exercise would be likely to deter well-qualified people from offering themselves as candidates for future public appointments, because they would not want comment on their merits and abilities to be made public.
 
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Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit 
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000 

The Scottish Government 
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Regent Road 
Edinburgh 
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