- 25 Jul 2019
Date received: 28 Jun 2019
Date responded: 25 Jul 2019
Further to my email of 28/06/2019, I have now completed my review of our failure to respond to your request dated 30 May 2019 under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) which asked:
Under FOISA, please provide all drafts and copies of Social Security Scotland Executive Advisory Body minutes and agendas relating to the 16 April 2019 meeting. This should include versions of the minutes and agendas not published at https://www.socialsecurity.gov.scot/what-we-do/minutes-meetings-and-agendas, and drafts provided to members before and at the meeting they were approved for.
Please also provide the notes taken for the aiding of producing the minutes, as well as any correspondence relating to changes to the minutes.
In accordance with section 21(4) of FOISA, I have also reached a decision on your request.
My review found that the amount of papers this request involved led to our response taking more time to be collated, reviewed and cleared for issue than anticipated, and for that I apologise.
I can now provide our response to your original request.
Some of the information you have requested is available online. Please see below links to the published minutes and agenda for the Social Security Scotland Executive Advisory Body on 16 April 2019:
Published Minutes from 16th April
Published Agenda from 16th April
I enclose a copy of some 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 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation), 33(1)(b)(substantial prejudice to commercial interests) and 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in the annex of this letter.
Reasons for not providing information - Annex
An exemption applies
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested, such as names, initials and contact information. Disclosing this information 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 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) applies to the text redacted on pages 3, 8, 9 and 11 of the handwritten notes. We consider it to be reasonable to withhold this information as it is the opinions of officials and their interpretation of facts.
This exemption also applies to text redacted on page 15 of the handwritten notes, as views shared by officials in the meeting & captured in the note may influence the approach taken by one or more stakeholder in the commercial negotiation.
This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. We recognise there is some public interest in disclosure of the handwritten notes, including the elements that have been redacted, as they would allow the public to see the free and frank exchange of views at the Executive Advisory Body. However, officials feeling discouraged from stating their opinions in an exchange of views when matters are being deliberated would weaken the ability of Social Security Scotland to deliberate on complex matters and express that range of opinion; that range of opinion is a key component to ensuring diversity in public administration and it strengthens the governance of the organisation. A lesser exchange would lead to significant harm to the governance of public bodies, including Social Security Scotland, which would not be in the public interest. In this circumstance the free and frank exchange of views for the purpose of deliberation and the strength and diversity that brings to public administration is more in the public interest than release of the views of officials.
An exemption under section 33(1)(b)(substantial prejudice to commercial interests) applies to text redacted on page 15 of the handwritten notes.
This exemption applies because disclosure of this particular information would, or would be likely to, substantially prejudice negotiations to acquire property for Social Security Scotland as the information would be likely to give a number of interested bidders an advantage in a tendering exercise. Furthermore the ability of Scottish Ministers and their independent appointed advisors to negotiate the best commercial outcome would be compromised.
This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. It is our view that it is not in the public interest to prematurely release information on an ongoing commercial negotiation which may impact on the Scottish Government’s ability to deliver an outcome which represents best value for the public purse.
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