- 19 Mar 2019
Date received: 4 Feb 2019
Date responded: 11 Mar 2019
You originally requested the following:
“Copies of all correspondence and communications from the last two years in which the potential funding and location of a satellite-launching station in Scotland is discussed, including sites in Sutherland and Shetland.”
Following a short telephone discussion with myself on 07 February 2019 you amended your requests as follows:
“I am happy that the FOI request covers communications relating to the potential funding and location of a site to launch satellites in Sutherland.”
I received confirmation from you, again on 07 February, to confirm that you were content with this information covering a two year period.
I have supplied all relevant documents along with this letter. The documents represent everything held by the Scottish Government in relation to your request and covers the following date range:
After 04 February 2017 and before 06 February 2019
Some information contained in the documents did not fall into scope of your request and therefore this information has been redacted. Please refer to Annex A which explains why certain other details have been redacted in line with The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION
An exemption applies
Under Section 38(1)(b) – applicant has asked for personal data of a third party
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to a small amount of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, ie names/contact details of individuals, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act 1998. 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.
Under section 33 (1)(b) - disclosure would (or would be likely to) prejudice substantially the commercial interests of any person or organisation
Information which is commercially sensitive is often described as being “commercially confidential.” However, there is no single exemption in FOISA covering “commercial confidentiality”. FOISA draws a distinction between information where disclosure would have a detrimental effect on commercial interests, and information which is “confidential” under Scots law.
Under section 30 - Prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs
Section 30 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) exempts information from disclosure where disclosure would, or would be likely to, cause substantial harm to one or more of the following:
- the maintenance of the convention of the collective responsibility of the Scottish Ministers
- the free and frank provision of advice
- the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation
- the effective conduct of public affairs
All of the exemptions in section 30 are subject to the public interest test. This means that, even if the exemption applies, the information must be disclosed unless the public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosing it.
The exemptions don’t last forever. In general, they can’t be applied to information that’s more than 15 years old.
Under section 29 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) exempts information from disclosure if it relates to:
- the formulation or development of government policy
- Ministerial communications
- the provision of advice by any of the Law Officers (or any request for the provision of such advice) or
- the operation of any Ministerial private office.
The section 29 exemptions are sometimes referred to as “class-based” exemptions. This means that the exemption will apply if the information falls within a particular class of information (e.g. Ministerial communications). Unlike most of the exemptions, the authority does not have to demonstrate that disclosure of the information would cause harm before applying the exemption.
The exemptions in section 29 are all subject to the public interest test. This means that, even if the exemption applies, the information must be disclosed unless the public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosing it. When applying the public interest test, the Scottish Administration must consider the public interest in disclosing the factual information used to inform a decision.
The exemption does not last forever. In general, it cannot be applied to information that is more than 15 years old.
This is one of the exemptions where a public authority can refuse to confirm or deny whether it holds the information, provided the authority is satisfied that revealing whether the information exists or is held would be contrary to the public interest (section 18 of FOISA).
Where the First Minister disagrees with a decision from the Commissioner concerning section 29(1), the First Minister can overrule the Commissioner’s decision, provided the information is of exceptional sensitivity and provided the First Minister has consulted the other members of the Scottish Government (section 52 of FOISA). At the date of publication of this guidance, no certificates have ever been issued.
Under section 25 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (the Act) exempts information from disclosure where the requester can reasonably obtain the information without making a request for it.
It has a different focus from other exemptions. It is not about withholding the information from the public, but recognises that where information is already available to the requester, there is no need to provide an alternative right of access to it through the Act.
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