- 13 Jan 2020
Date received: 9 Dec 2019
Date responded: 10 Jan 2020
I would like to request under FOI a copy of all correspondence between the Scottish Government and Dumfries and Galloway Council regarding the waste PFI since the start of 2017.
Copies of the relevant documents between Scottish Government and Dumfries and Galloway Council officials which fall in the period specified in your request are attached.
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance an exemption applies to some of the information you have requested. The reasons why an exemption applies to this information are explained in the Annex to this letter.
Annex - 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, ie names and contact details of Scottish Government and Dumfries and Galloway Council staff, 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 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) applies to some of the information requested. It is essential for Scottish Government Ministers and officials to be able to communicate, often in confidence, with external stakeholders on a range of issues, including financial issues relating to the waste management strategy of Dumfries and Galloway Council. Disclosing the content of these communications, particularly without the consent of the stakeholder, is likely to undermine their trust in the Scottish Government and will substantially inhibit communications on this type of issue in the future. These stakeholders will be reluctant to provide their views fully and frankly if they believe that their views are likely to be made public, particularly when these discussions are ongoing and relate to a sensitive or controversial issue such as the PFI waste contract in Dumfries and Galloway. This would significantly harm the Scottish Government’s ability to carry out many aspects of its work, and could adversely affect its ability to gather all of the evidence it needs to make fully informed policy decisions.
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 Scottish Government’s policy position on specific waste issues, until the Scottish Government as a whole can adopt a strategy that is sound and likely to be effective. This private space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good policy decisions can be taken, based on fully informed advice and evidence, such as that provided by Dumfries and Galloway Council. 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 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