Publication - FOI/EIR release

Rural Finance (Scotland) Bill and 'No Deal' correspondence regarding agriculture: FOI release

Published: 28 Aug 2019

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

Published:
28 Aug 2019
Rural Finance (Scotland) Bill and 'No Deal' correspondence regarding agriculture: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/19/01577
Date received: 4 Jul 2019
Date responded: 27 Aug 2019
Information requested

You asked for:

i) All correspondence, emails, letters, telephone conversations, dates of meetings (internal and external), minutes of meetings (internal and external), briefings since 1 January 2018 between the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Scottish Government officials in specific relation to the Rural Finance (Scotland) Bill.

ii) All correspondence, emails, letters, telephone conversations, dates of meetings (internal and external), minutes of meetings (internal and external), briefings since 1 January 2018 between Scottish Government officials and UK Government officials in specific relation to the Rural Finance (Scotland) Bill.

iii) All correspondence, emails, letters, telephone conversations, dates of meetings (internal and external), minutes of meetings (internal and external), briefings since 1 January 2018 between Scottish Government officials and European Commission officials in specific relation to the Rural Finance (Scotland) Bill.

iv) All correspondence, emails, letters, telephone conversations, dates of meetings (internal and external), minute of meetings (internal and external), briefings  since 29 March 2017 between the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Scottish Government officials in specific relation to Scottish Government Resilience Room meetings concerning ‘No Deal’ planning for farming, food production and the agricultural sector.

Response

I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested. Please note, in respect to points i) to iii) of your request, the title of the Bill has yet to be finalised, and so where it has been given a name in the enclosed (such as “Rural Financial Support Bill”) this should be treated as a working title which will not necessarily reflect the final title of the Bill.

Some of the information you have requested is available from:

The Scottish Government consultation, “Stability and Simplicity”, available at https://consult.gov.scot/agriculture-and-rural-communities/economy-post-brexit-transition/ .

The Scottish Government news release regarding the Scottish Government Resilience Room, available here: https://www.gov.scot/news/preparing-for-brexit/ .

The Scottish Parliament Official Report of the Future Rural Policy and Support Debate on 10 Jan 2019, available here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11875&i=107420 .

Scottish Parliament Official Report of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee meeting on 24 April, available here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=12060&i=109122

Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you.  If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the websites listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.

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 28(1) (relations within the UK), 29(1)(a) (policy formulation), 29(1)(b) (ministerial communications), 30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice), 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views), 36(1) (confidentiality in legal proceedings) and 38(1)(b) (personal data relating to a third party) of FOISA applies to that information.  The reasons why those 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, i.e. the 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 you have requested. This exempts from disclosure information received from other UK administrations where disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially relations between administrations in the UK.   

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 release because of the way different administrations have addressed issues relating to future rural legislation. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in maintaining the trust and confidence of other UK administrations in sharing information with Scottish Government in future.

An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test

An exemption applies under section 29(1)(a) & (b) of FOISA (Policy development). This exemption applies to some of the information requested because it relates to the development of legislation that is to be put to the Scottish Parliament. This exemption recognises the need for Scottish Ministers and officials to be able to communicate during the formulation and development of such matters.

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 high quality policy and decision-making, and ensuring that Ministers can communicate with each other, and with officials, during its formulation and development in order to achieve this. 

An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test

An exemption applies under section 30(b)(i) & (ii) of FOISA (Free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views). This exemption applies to some of the information requested 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, and exchanges of views, on the development of legislation will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the 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 allowing a private space within which officials can provide full and frank advice to Ministers, and allow for an exchange of views, as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s position on future rural policy in Scotland.

An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test

An exemption applies under section 36(1) of FOISA (Confidentiality in legal proceedings). This exempts information from disclosure relating to confidentiality, including legal professional privilege.

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 because of the interest in the development of future rural policy in Scotland. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in ensuring Scottish Ministers can seek and receive confidential legal advice.

About FOI
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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