- 6 Mar 2019
Date received: 1 Feb 2019
Date responded: 1 Mar 2019
The handling report for FOI referenced FoI/19/00065, including but not limited to, a breakdown of the handling of the request, the drafting of the response, and who handled the response.
You also asked for the drafts of the response originally circulated before this final response letter was sent.
The answer to your question regarding the handling of the request is as follows:
The FOI Request was received at central enquiries and directed to the relevant team, and allocated to the case-handler. The case-handler acknowledged the request, and began gathering information.
Another official requested advice from the Senior Responsible Officer Stephen Kerr, who provided general guidance. The case-handler then commenced preparation of documents and response drafted. The case-handler also sought guidance from two other officials on FOI process and previous case handling.
A draft was sent within the team for initial clearance, and FOI unit guidance was sought. A draft was sent to the Deputy Programme Director (Alison Byrne) and the
Social Security Agency Chief Executive (David Wallace). The Deputy Programme Director provided comments and the Chief Executive concurred with suggested approach.
The case-handler updated the draft response to reflect comments from the Deputy Programme Director. This draft response passed to the Senior Responsible Officer for consideration and comment. Once the FOI unit had been engaged for a final time on the proposed response, the Social Security Special Advisor (Jeanette Campbell) handled the question for the purposes of provision of advice and comment and returned to the case-handler for Ministerial clearance. The draft response was provided to the Cabinet Secretary who advised she was content. The response was then provided to the requestor.
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 under sections (s)30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) and (s)25(1) (information otherwise accessible) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in the Annex to this letter.
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION
An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test
An exemption under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. The draft response letters you request formed part of the process of deliberation in a recent FOI request (FoI/19/00065), and the drafts and any changing content within them represent the exchange of views to determine what information could be released. As such, a safe space to consider and form views ahead of providing the response is needed to support engagement with the process. To provide the workings prior to this decision would remove the safe space and effectively inhibit the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation.
In relation to your request for draft responses and by extension any information potentially contained in them beyond that determined as for release in the response to FoI/19/00065, providing information that has already been determined as not for release would undermine the FOI preparation process undertaken in good faith and similarly inhibit the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. We understand that FoI/19/00065 is now subject to a review; any changes to information released will be considered as part of that new process rather than retrospectively applied to the information provided as part of the original request.
As such, a further exemption under section 25(1) applies to some of the information you have requested. The information you request in relation to the drafts of the response is already available in the original response to your request FoI/19/00065, provided 1 February 2019, noting that s.30(b)(ii) has been applied to any additional information outwith the final response letter.
The exemption under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA 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 some public interest in release as part of open, transparent and accountable government. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in allowing officials a private space to assess requests like these, and to ensure that a rigorous process is applied that considers the ongoing needs of transparency and appropriate timing in sharing information. Disclosure of discussion and decisions in development of a response is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between officials and in doing so reduce the quality of the important freedom of information 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