Publication - FOI/EIR release

Information and correspondence relating to Carrbridge Hotel and Fergus Ewing: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Published:
23 Apr 2019
Information and correspondence relating to Carrbridge Hotel and Fergus Ewing: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/19/00817  
Date received: 19/03/2019
Date responded: 16/04/2019
 
Information requested
 

You asked for

  • Copies of all correspondence between Colin Watt, Owner of Carrbridge Hotel, and Fergus Ewing
  • Copies of all other recorded information which is held by the Scottish Government relating to Carrbridge Hotel
  • Copies of all internal and external communications, correspondence, and information relating to discussions of the allegations of a conflict of interest between Fergus Ewing’s role as rural economy secretary and  his relationship with the manager of the Carrbridge Hotel.
 
Response
 
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 a exemptions under sections 38(1)(b) (personal information), 30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice), 35(1) (law enforcement) of FOISA applies to that information.  The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in the Annex to this letter.
 
 
ANNEX
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION

 

An exemption applies

38(1)(b) (personal information)

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, for example the names and/or contact details of individuals, 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 the exemption.

 

Exemptions apply, subject to the public interest test

30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice)

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 and other officials before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on alleged leaks of government information, infrequently used internal processes, previous requests for information and the possible actions of third parties will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because these discussions relate to a sensitive handling of Ministerial responsibilities and information provided by third parties which in the past was not in the public domain.

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 and other officials, as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s position, until the Government as a whole can adopt a position 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 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.

 

35(1) (law enforcement)

An exemption under section 35(1) of FOISA (law enforcement) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially one or more of a wide range of law enforcement functions and activities. Disclosing information relating to the enforcement processes will substantially undermine the future effectiveness of those processes, particularly where that information relates to the exploration of options for action.

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 officials involved in enforcement to explore options for action available in the regime within which they operate. This is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, based on the best available advice, so that good decisions can be taken. Disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the enforcement decision making process, which would not be in the public interest.

About FOI
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
 

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit 
Email:ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000 


The Scottish Government 
St Andrew's House 
Regent Road 
Edinburgh 
EH1 3DG