- 7 May 2019
Date received: 3 Apr 2019
Date responded: 1 May 2019
All the information related to Paul Wheelhouse’s discussions with the Oil and Gas Authority on whether there is a need for an inquiry into offshore helicopter safety. This should include any correspondence both written and electronic, as well as minutes from any meetings.
All information related to Michael Matheson’s discussions with the Civil Aviation Authority on whether there is a need for an inquiry into offshore helicopter safety. The same criteria applies as above.
I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested. This is located in Annex B.
The following information falls within the scope of your request:
- Briefing document – meeting between Mr Wheelhouse and the OGA
- Readout – OGA Meeting
- Briefing document – meeting between Mr Matheson and the CAA
- Readout – CAA Meeting
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 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to a small amount the information requested.
Information has also been withheld under Section 30(c) – substantial prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs which applies to some the information requested.
The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in Annex A to this letter.
Reasons for not providing information - Annex A
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, ie this relates to the names and contact numbers of junior Scottish Government 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 the exemption.
An exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) applies to some the information requested. It is essential for Ministers to be able to communicate, often in confidence, with external stakeholders on a range of issues, including the issue of offshore helicopter safety and the ongoing support and engagement with the oil and gas sector. Disclosing some information about these meetings, particularly without the consent of the stakeholder, is likely to undermine their trust in the Scottish Government and will substantially inhibit communications on this type of issue in the future. These stakeholders will be reluctant to participate in meetings and provide their views fully and frankly if they believe that their views are likely to be made public, particularly while these discussions relate to matters regarding the company’s operational or corporate activities. This would significantly harm the Government’s ability to carry out many aspects of its work, and could adversely affect its ability to gather all of the evidence it needs to make fully informed decisions.
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 meet with appropriate external stakeholders as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s position on support for the oil and gas sector and particularly around the concerns raised on offshore helicopter safety, until the Government as a whole can adopt a policy that is sound and likely to be effective. This private space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good policy decisions can be taken based on fully informed advice and evidence, such as that provided by key stakeholders in the oil and gas sector. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between the Scottish Government and these stakeholders, 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