- 21 Jan 2019
Date received: 14 December 2018
Date responded: 17 January 2019
All correspondence and documents regarding The Institute for Statecraft. This should include correspondence, notes, agendas, minutes of meetings, letters, emails, briefings, and notes of conversations (including telephone) pertaining to the above. This information should cover the period from January 2015 until the present day.
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 an exemption(s) under sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) – “free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation” of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why that exemption(s) applies are explained below.
Exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank advice and exchange of views) apply to some of the information requested. These exemptions apply because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. The exemptions recognise the need for Ministers to have a private space within which to seek advice and views from officials before reaching the settled public position which will be given in whatever final SPQ answers are used. Disclosing the content of free and frank briefing material on SPQ background notes will substantially inhibit such briefing in the future, particularly because discussions on the issue are still ongoing and final decisions have not been taken.
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 SPQ answers. It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers can properly answer Parliamentary questions 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