- 4 Mar 2019
Date received: 8 Jan 2019
Date responded: 28 Feb 2019
You asked for all internal correspondence and briefing, including draft responses, pertaining to the response to Parliamentary question S5W-20557, and a breakdown of the handling of the question and the response, detail who handled it and how many times.
I enclose a copy of the internal correspondence and briefing, including draft responses, that you requested.
The question was allocated to be answered by an Assistant Statistician in Social Security Operations and Delivery Analysis (emails 1 - 3). The response was drafted by the Assistant Statistician (email 4) and handled once by the following: the head of Social Security Operations and Delivery Analysis (email 5); a Statistician in Social Security Operations and Delivery Analysis (email 6); Audrey MacDougall, head of Communities Analysis Division (email 7 - 8); and Jeanette Campbell, Special Adviser (email 9, email 9 attachment, email 10, email 10 attachment).
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some staff names and contact details because an exemption under Section 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA applies to that information. These names have been redacted from the enclosed correspondence. The reasons why that exemption applies are explained in the Annex to this letter.
Some additional information has been redacted from emails 2, 4-8 and 9 attachment because Section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why that exemption(s) applies are explained in the Annex to this letter.
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION
An exemption applies
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. Staff names, telephone numbers and email addresses have been redacted from copies of emails, for staff below senior civil service grade. Disclosing this information 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)(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 and explore options before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank discussions on the early management information collected at Social Security Scotland and the quality of this data will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, particularly because these discussions are ongoing. Discussion of management information and the quality of this data are essential for officials to be able to understand issues with the data, to improve data quality, and to allow the publication of quality assured official statistics in line with the Official Statistics Code of Practice.
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 officials a private space within which to discuss management information and data quality, until the quality of that data is assured to a standard suitable for publication. This private thinking space is essential to enable the data 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 officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the official statistics which are published, which would not be in the public interest. Release of early management which has not been quality assured would not be in the public interest as the data is potentially misleading. In the meantime, there is a greater public interest in taking the time necessary to ensure the information has been properly collated and checked before it is published as planned. We intend to publish Best Start Grant statistics in April 2019 once the appropriate quality assurance has been undertaken allowing the Official Statistics objective of orderly release and equal accessibility of statistics as outlined in the Official Statistics Code of Practice.
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