Publication - FOI/EIR release

Review of FOI-201900000203 EU Exit Civil Contingencies Portfolio: FOI review

Published: 13 May 2019

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

Published:
13 May 2019
Review of FOI-201900000203 EU Exit Civil Contingencies Portfolio: FOI review
FOI reference: FOI/201900000654
Date received: 8 Apr 2019
Date responded: 16 Apr 2019
Information requested

 

Electronic copies of all weekly “EU Exit Civil Contingencies Portfolio” sitreps between 26 November 2018 and 7 February 2019.

Response

 

Further to my letter of 8 April 2019, I have now completed my review of our response to your request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) for the release of electronic copies of all weekly “EU Exit Civil Contingencies Portfolio” sitreps between 26 November 2018 and 7 February 2019.
I have concluded that the original decision should be confirmed, with modifications. My conclusion is that the sitreps requested can now be released to you in part. We are unable to provide some of the information you have requested as it falls under exemptions:
·28(1) of FOISA (relations within the UK);
·30(b) (i) (free and frank provision of advice);
·30(b) (ii) (free and frank exchange of views);
·38(1)(b) (personal information).
You noted in your review request the strong public interest in the preparedness of the Scottish Government in the event of a No-deal EU Exit. In reviewing this request I have therefore reconsidered the public interest test. The landscape surrounding EU Exit and the information in the public domain has moved at pace since the original conclusion was reached. Whilst the exemptions above still apply to some of the information in the requested documents, I have concluded that some of the information requested can now be released and I have attached redacted copies in the Annex to this letter.

 

ANNEX A
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION

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 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

Section 28(1) (relations within the UK)

An exemption under section 28(1) of FOISA (relations within the UK) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially relations between the Scottish Government and the UK Government. Disclosure would substantially prejudice relations as some of the information contained within the requested document was provided by the UK Government. It is essential for the effective administration of the UK as a whole that there should be regular, and often private, communications between the Scottish Government, the UK Government and the other devolved administrations. Disclosure of this information will mean that the UK Government is likely to be more reluctant to communicate as frequently and openly with the Scottish Government in 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 maintaining close working relationships between the Scottish Government and the UK Government and in protecting the free exchange of information between the administrations to ensure that we keep each other fully and regularly informed about matters of mutual interest, such as EU Exit. There is no public interest in disclosing information when that will damage relationships and disrupt future communications.

Section 30(b) (i) (free and frank provision of advice); and
Section 30(b) (ii) (free and frank exchange of views)

An exemption under section 30(b) (i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) and 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 provision of advice or exchange of 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 have a private space within which to discuss and explore options before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the full content of free and frank advice and exchange of views on EU Exit Civil Contingencies will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice and exchanges in the future, particularly because these discussions relate to sensitive information on EU Exit. These discussions are still ongoing and the situation is continuously evolving.

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 in part. 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 also a public interest in allowing Ministers and officials a private space within which to explore and refine the Government’s EU Exit position on civil contingency activity, challenges and issues in the event of a No deal exit from the EU. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, based on the best available advice and exchange of views, so that good decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure of certain sensitive information is likely to undermine the advice and frank discussion of issues between officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, which would not be in the public interest.

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Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
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