Publication - FOI/EIR release

Social Security Programme IV and verification contingency options appraisal: FOI release

Published: 10 Feb 2020

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

Published:
10 Feb 2020
Social Security Programme IV and verification contingency options appraisal: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/20/00077
Date received: 17 Jan 2020
Date responded: 7 Feb 2020
Information requested

Under FOISA, please provide the Social Security Programme IV and verification contingency options appraisal.

Response

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 the document is still under policy discussion. We have applied exemptions under section 29(1)(a) Formulation or development of Scottish Government policy, and section 30(b)(i) Free and frank provision of advice to that information. The reasons why those exemptions apply are explained in the Annex to this letter.

Annex - Reasons for not providing information
An exemption under section s.29(1)(a) formulation or development of Scottish Government policy of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested.

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 in the properly considered implementation and development of policies and decisions. This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications.

Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions on the contingency options for identity verification will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government’s view on that policy while it is still under discussion and development.

An exemption under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) also 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 other officials before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view.

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 other officials and Ministers, as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s position on Identity and Verification contingencies, and 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.

About FOI
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.

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