- 3 Apr 2019
Date received: 12 Mar 2019
Date responded: 27 Mar 2019
You have asked for sight of the whole report of which Annex F forms part in relation to the Habitats Regulation Appraisal/Appropriate Assessment undertaken by the Scottish Ministers in relation to the planning application for the former Cockenzie Power Station Site, Prestonpans, East Lothian.
I enclose a copy of all of the information you requested. Please see Annex A.
Some of the information you have requested is redacted because of exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) and 38(1)(b) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why these exemptions are applied is explained in Annex B of this response.
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION
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 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 the handling of the case will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future.
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 position on the handling of high profile cases. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, based on the best available advice, so that good 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 decision making process, which would not be in the public interest.
An exemption under section s.38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) also applies to some of the information you have requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. the names and contact details of non-senior officials, and disclosing it 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 this exemption.
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