- 27 Feb 2019
Date received: 3 Dec 2018
Date responded: 20 Feb 2019
Details, including any documents, of any introductory briefings provided to Ivan McKee when he assumed his new role in the Scottish Government recently.
Further to your email of 03/12/2018, I have now completed my review of our failure to respond to your request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) for details, including any documents, of any introductory briefings provided to Ivan McKee when he assumed his new role in the Scottish Government recently as Minister for Trade, Innvestment and Innovation.
In accordance with section 21(4) of FOISA, I have also reached a decision on your request.
I apologise for the delay in responding to your request. As you will be aware, this is one of a series of requests that you made at the same time seeking details, including any documents, of any introductory briefings provided to eight different Ministers when they recently took up new Ministerial roles. You had previously submitted these requests as a single request (FOI/18/02458) and we refused it on the basis that the cost of locating, retrieving and providing the information requested would exceed the upper cost limit of £600 so we were not obliged to comply with it.
Responding to these individual requests at the same time has similarly imposed a substantial burden on the Scottish Government, particularly the private offices of the Ministers in question and the central FOI Unit which provides advice and support to individual case handlers. In addition, we had to undertake detailed searches to ensure that all introductory briefing material was properly identified and considered for disclosure. This took longer than expected, but we accept it should not have delayed our response to you.
I can now provide a response to your original request. Some of the information you have requested is available from
Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you.
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 apply under the following sections:
section 30(b)(i) - Free and Frank Provision of Advice
section 38(1)(b) - Personal information
The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in the Annex to this letter.
An exemption applies
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e.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.
An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test
An exemption under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) applies to some of 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 funding arrangements between Scottish Government and external partners will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future as the funding agreements will continue until in some cases to 2023 and discussions and decisions are required on an on-going basis.
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 as the Managing Authority for the European Structural Funds programmes, 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.
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 Andrews House