- 23 Apr 2019
Date received: 04/03/2019
Date responded: 16/04/2019
Please could you send me any and all information, hard or soft copy, emails, documents or other forms of information covered by the relevant legislation, generated by the above correspondence based on the request for a review of medical research funding. Please highlight the advice the government’s response states it received from Denise Coia to Nicola Sturgeon and Nicola Sturgeon’s direction for you to respond to me on this matter.
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 exempt under S29(1)(a) formulation or development of Scottish Government policy, S30(b)(ii) free and frank exchange of advice, 38 (b)(ii) personal data, in FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why those exemptions apply are explained in the Annex to this letter.
1. Information generated by the correspondence to the Minister for Mental Health, First Minister, Chief Medical Officer, the Chief Scientist and the Scottish Funding Council around the request for medical research funding:
Beyond your initial email there is no information held on your request for a review of medical research funding on the letter sent to Nicola Sturgeon on the 20th December 2018. There is no information held in regards to your letter to the Minister for Mental Health on the 23rd November 2018.
I have been unable to identify any correspondence directly between yourself and the Chief Scientist (Health) and, therefore, any information generated by such correspondence which would fall within the scope of your current specific request. I am aware that you have had correspondence with various officials in the Chief Scientist Office (CSO) in relation to previous Freedom of Information requests made directly to the CSO. If you could clarify whether you are looking for information generated by those earlier requests to CSO officials I will ask colleagues in the CSO to respond to you directly as a separate Freedom of Information request.
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested in relation to your correspondence with the Scottish Funding Council. However, you may wish to contact the Scottish Funding Council directly, who may be able to help you. The reason why we don’t have the information is because the Scottish Funding Council is a separate body to the Scottish Government. Therefore, we hold no information in regards to this specific request.
2. Advice Government received from Denise Coia to Nicola Sturgeon and Nicola Sturgeons direction for you to respond to me on this matter:
Denise Coia did not speak to Nicola Sturgeon directly. Denise Coia spoke to the Minister for Mental Health, Clare Haughey, about your case. Clare Haughey accepted Denise Coia’s recommendation to decline a meeting and the proposal for £10m funding for Miricyl, which was requested in both original correspondence. The discussion was not minuted but its conclusion was communicated verbally to officials in order to respond to your request.
An exemption under section 29(1)(a) of FOISA (formulation or development of government policy) applies to some of the information requested because it relates to the formulation of the Scottish Government’s policy on health research policy.
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 high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development of policies and decisions. This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications. Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions on any funding decisions for medical, health and mental health research will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government’s view on that policy while it is still under discussion and development.
Section 30(b)(ii) - inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice
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 Ministers and 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 medical, health and mental health research funding will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, particularly because these discussions are still ongoing
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 Ministers and officials a private space within which to explore and refine the Government’s medical, health and mental health position on the allocation of funding to research areas, 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, so that good health funding decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between Ministers and officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the policy making process, which would not be in the public interest.
Section 38(1)(b) – applicant has asked for personal data of a third party
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