Publication - FOI/EIR release

Department of Trade and Industry communications re: Saudi Arabia: FOI release

Published: 13 May 2019

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

Published:
13 May 2019
Department of Trade and Industry communications re: Saudi Arabia: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/19/01010
Date received: 9 Apr 2019
Date responded: 7 May 2019
Information requested

1 - Provide details of any correspondence - including emails/minutes of meetings etc - between the Scottish Government and the UK's Department of Trade and Industry regarding Saudi Arabia since 2nd October 2018 please?
2 - Provide details of any correspondence between Scottish Development International and the UK Government on Saudi Arabia since 2nd October 2018 please?
3 - Provide details of any internal discussions the Scottish Government has had about Jamal Khashoggi since 2nd October 2018 please.

Response

In this instance the costs of locating, retrieving and providing the information requested would exceed the upper cost limit of £600 as a Scottish Government-wide trawl would be required to ascertain if any information is held. Under section 12 of FOISA public authorities are not required to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying would exceed the upper cost limit, which is currently set at £600 by Regulations made under section 12.

Regarding the first point of your request, as there are few business areas tasked with liaising with the DTI, I have contacted them regarding your request.
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested. The reasons why we don’t have the information are explained in the Annex below.

Regarding the second point of your request, while our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested. However, you may wish to contact Scottish Enterprise at pressoffice@scotent.co.uk and the UK Government at FOI@trade.gov.uk who may be able to help you. The reasons why we don’t have the information are explained in the Annex below.

Regarding the third point of your request, as the subject matter is narrow, few business areas would be discussing Jamal Khashoggi for business reasons.
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, s.28(1) Relations with the UK, s.29(1)(a) Formulation or Development of Government Policy, s.30(b)(i) Free and Frank Provision of Advice, 30(b)(ii) of FOISA Free and Frank Exchange of Views and s.38(1)(b) Personal Information of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in the Annex below.
The information is included in the attached document with redactions and exemptions applied.

ANNEX

REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION

The Scottish Government does not have the information
The Scottish Government does not have the information you have asked for because it does not hold the information within the scope of points one and two of your request. This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested.

An exemption applies
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (Personal data relating to third party) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. names and 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.

An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test
An exemption under section 28(1) of FOISA (Relations within the UK) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially relations between the Scottish Government and the UK Government. It would reveal candid discussions between the UK Government and Scottish Government on Saudi Arabia and the Khashoggi case. It is essential for the effective administration of the UK as a whole that there should be regular, and often private, communications between the Scottish Government, the UK Government and the other devolved administrations. Disclosure of this information will mean that the UK Government is likely to be more reluctant to communicate as frequently and openly with the Scottish Government in 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 maintaining close working relationships between the Scottish Government and the UK Government and in protecting the free exchange of information between the administrations to ensure that we keep each other fully and regularly informed about matters of mutual interest such as the latest information available on the Khashoggi case. There is no public interest in disclosing information when that will damage relationships and disrupt future communications as that may impact on the effectiveness of future policy development and implementation work. 

An exemption under section 29(1)(a) of FOISA (Formulation or development of Scottish Government policy) applies to some of the information requested because it relates to the formulation of the Scottish Government’s policy on engagement with Saudi Arabia.

This exemption is subject to the “public interest test.” Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of these cases, 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 is 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 cases such as this 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.

An exemption under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (Free and frank provision of advice) and 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 provision of advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to Ministers and within which to discuss and explore options before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view.

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 on matters relating to Saudi Arabia, until the Government as a whole can adopt a decision 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.

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foi-19-01010 Information Released

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Contact

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

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG