- 2 Apr 2019
Date received: 28 Feb 2019
Date responded: 1 Apr 2019
You asked for:
• The number of times that Expert Panel on Environmental Charging and Other Measures has met;
• for copies of agendas, minutes, and papers for those meetings,
• for any other recorded details of the remit and work plan of the panel which the government holds from the Panel’s first meeting until the present date.
The Expert Panel on Environmental Charging and Other Measures (EPECOM) has met three times at the time of your request, and will continue to meet regularly over the course of its work.
The agendas and minutes for those meetings, as requested under your second bullet point, are available from the Expert Panel dedicated webpage: https://www.gov.scot/groups/expert-panel-on-environmental-charging-and-other-measures/. Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.
I enclose copies of the meeting papers and any recorded details of the remit and work plan of the panel as detailed in your second and third bullet point.
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 under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) applies to that information. The reasons why that exemption applies are explained in the Annex to this letter, and the information has been redacted from the copies enclosed.
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION
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 the Expert Panel and 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 environmental charging and other measures will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because these discussions are still ongoing and decisions have not been taken.
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 on environmental charging and other measures, 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 the Expert Panel, 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