- 29 Jul 2019
Date received: 20 Jun 2019
Date responded: 23 Jul 2019
You asked for:
• "Any briefing documents provided to Scottish Ministers on St Ambrose school campus in Coatbridge within the last year (prior to 20 June 2019)" (Fol/19/10503)
• "Any correspondence (emails, letters, phone calls or otherwise) between Scottish Government ministers, senior civil servants or special advisers and anyone at North Lanarkshire Council regarding St Ambrose school campus in Coatbridge within the last three months (prior to 20 June)" (Fol/19/01504)
I enclose copies of the information relevant to your request.
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 section s.38(1 )(b) and one exemption under section s.30(b)(1) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why that exemption(s) applies 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 a small amount of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, ie 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 under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) 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. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to Ministers before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on St Ambrose school campus will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because these discussions relate to a sensitive or controversial issue.
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, as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's [policy]* position on St Ambrose school campus, 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.
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