- 21 May 2019
Date received: 16 Apr 2019
Date responded: 14 May 2019
Details of any correspondence (phone calls, letters, emails, etc) sent to either John Swinney or Nicola Sturgeon from parents, pupils, MSPs or organisations on the topic of Scottish students failing to obtain an undergraduate university placement for all reasons other than grades, with a timeframe of between 1 September 2018 and 15 April 2019. You clarified that you were asking for the information within the correspondence, i.e. the contents of the correspondence, not the number of pieces of correspondence.
In a further email on 16 April 2019 you indicated that you were happy for us to interpret “an undergraduate university placement” to mean a place on a first-time, full-time undergraduate degree.
I attach a copy of most of the information you requested.
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) (personal information) and 30(c) (substantial prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why those exemptions apply are explained in the Annex to this letter.
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION
An exemption applies under section 38(1)(b)
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. names, contact details, and other identifiable information, 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 under section 30(c), subject to the public interest test
An exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. Section 30(c) (substantial prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs) applies to communications between Scottish Ministers and MSPs.
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 some public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in maintaining the vital principle that communications between MSPs and Scottish Ministers are strictly confidential, especially when the MSP is writing on behalf of a constituent.
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