- 9 Jan 2020
Date received: 21 Nov 2019
Date responded: 18 Dec 2019
You asked for:
Copies of all the information Transport Scotland holds – including all correspondence (from 5 April 2019 until now) the transport minister/Transport Scotland staff have had with Highlands and Islands Airport Ltd (HIAL) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) – on an incident that happened at Kirkwall airport on 5 April 2019 when a Loganair plane with 33 passengers and three crew on board took off for Edinburgh after all air traffic controllers had ended their shift and the airport was technically closed.
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)(i), 30(b)(ii) and 38(1)(b) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why those exemptions apply are explained in the Annex to this letter. Any information outwith the scope of your request has also been redacted.
Annex - Reasons for not providing information
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. names and contact details of individuals, and disclosing this would contravene the data protection principles on Schedule 1 of the Data Protection Act 1998. 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
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 provision of advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. The exemptions recognise the need for Ministers to have a private space within which to seek advice and views from officials before reaching the settled public position which will be given in whatever final Parliamentary question answers are used. Disclosing the content of free and frank briefing material on question S5O-03146 will substantially inhibit such briefing in the future.
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 exemptions. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemptions. 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 free and frank advice and views to Ministers in briefing for Parliamentary question answers. It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers can properly answer Parliamentary questions, provide sound information to Parliament (to which they are accountable), and robustly defend the Government’s policies and decisions. They need full and candid advice from officials to enable them to do so. Premature disclosure of this type of information could lead to a reduction in the comprehensiveness and frankness of such advice and views in the future, which would not be in the public interest.
An exemption under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to discuss issues and options with external stakeholders before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of these discussions with Loganair and Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) on the flight from Kirkwall on 5 April will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, because these stakeholders will be reluctant to provide their views fully and frankly if they believe that those views are likely to be made public.
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 Ministers and officials a private space within which to communicate with appropriate external stakeholders as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s position on aviation issues in Scotland, until the Government as a whole can adopt a policy 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, such as that provided by Loganair, HIAL and other stakeholders in the Aviation sector. 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 policy 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.
In relation to the report ‘20190614 HIAL Oversight Report (ADR1762)’ which we received from HIAL, it is a long-established principle of aviation safety regulation that the details of safety audits and investigations are only shared with the organisations involved, and otherwise remain confidential. The Civil Aviation Authority strongly encourages an open reporting culture, allowing those working in the industry to report and discuss any issues or concerns they might have in a confidential way. The Scottish Government respects this principle and accordingly has applied this exemption.
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