- 15 Jul 2019
Date received: 13 Jun 2019
Date responded: 10 Jul 2019
You asked that:
“Scottish Government disclose all documentation it holds - including but not limited to minutes, memos, emails, letters, and other correspondence - relating to its discussions with Guardhouse Studios (as well as its associated corporate entities Guardhouse Productions, and Guardhouse Studios Scotland), and Surya Iacono, the CEO of Guardhouse Studios, regarding its plans for a film studio complex in Edinburgh.
This disclosure should include, but not be limited to, documentation relating to meetings attended by Scottish Government staff in its capacity as a member of the Film Studio Delivery Group. It should also include, but not be limited to, correspondence between culture secretary Fiona Hyslop and Surya Iacono and the Guardhouse entities referred to above.”
I enclose 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 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) (free and frank advice and exchange of views) and 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in the Annex to this letter.
Reasons for not providing information - Annex
An exemption applies
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, e.g. 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.
Exemptions apply, subject to the public interest test
Exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank advice and exchange of views) apply to some of the information requested. These exemptions apply because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank exchange of advice and 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 other officials and to discuss issues and options with external stakeholders before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of these discussions with officials, Ministers and stakeholders on Guardhouse studio will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, because discussions may still be ongoing and stakeholders will be reluctant to provide their views fully and frankly if they believe that those views are likely to be made public.
These exemptions are 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/other officials and to communicate with appropriate external stakeholders as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s position on this matter, until the Government as a whole can adopt a decision that is sound and likely to be effective. This private space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good decisions can be taken based on fully informed advice and evidence. 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 decision making process, which would not be in the public interest. There is also an important public interest in avoiding the loss of stakeholder confidence in cases where they thought they were providing comments in confidence, which would be inevitable if an individual’s contribution was released against their wishes.
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