Publication - FOI/EIR release

Meetings with representatives of diplomatic missions and with the Scottish electricity industry: FOI release

Published: 26 Mar 2020

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

Published:
26 Mar 2020
Meetings with representatives of diplomatic missions and with the Scottish electricity industry: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202000018267
Date received: 27 Feb 2020
Date responded: 24 Mar 2020
Information requested

information relating to meetings by the with representatives of diplomatic missions and with the Scottish electricity industry, records of which I understand must be made and kept under the terms of the Scottish Ministerial Code. The meetings are as follows:

  • 2 April 2010 Meeting with Ian Marchant, SSE
  • 22 June 2010 Attendance at Power to the People: Hydro Electricity … to 1975 Conference
  • 18 November 2010 Meeting with the Ambassador of Iceland
  • 14 January 2011 Meeting with Ian Marchant, SSE
  • 27 September 2011 Attendance at Scottish Low Carbon Investment Conference dinner
  • 28 September 2011 Attendance at Scottish Low Carbon Investment Conference
  • 5 October 2011 Dinner with Ian Marchant & George Baxter, SSE
  • 12 January 2012 Meeting with the Danish Ambassador
  • 1 March 2012 Meeting with Ian Marchant & Gregor Alexander, SSE
  • 22 March 2012 Attendance and speech at Annual Consular Corps reception
Response

I enclose a copy of some of the information requested. All available documents (with redactions, see applied exemptions in annex) pertaining to these meetings have been attached in PDF format to this email.

The Scottish Government does not have all of the information you asked for because it was routinely destroyed in line with our standard record management practices.

Annex - Reasons for not providing information
An exemption under section s.38(1)(b) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested, where having considered GDPR some personal details, such as names, contact details and signatures have been redacted.

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 under section s.33(1)(b) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested, where having considered GDPR some commercially sentitive information has been redacted. This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’ . This test was carried out ad the redacting it was found to be in the public interest due to relevance to an ongoing commercial project. An exemption under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) 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 Ministers 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 Ministers and other officials, as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's position on matters relating to relations with Denmark and Iceland, 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.

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 Ministers and officials to be able to meet and communicate, often in confidence, with external stakeholders on a range of issues, including prospects for commercial activity and views on domestic and international political matters. Disclosing the content of these communications and information about these meetings, 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 participate in meetings and provide their views fully and frankly if they believe that their views are likely to be made public, particularly while these discussions are still ongoing and decisions have not been taken, and/or these discussions relate to a sensitive or controversial issue. This would significantly harm the 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 policies and decisions.

Section 30(c) 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 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 Ministers and officials a private space within which to communicate with appropriate external stakeholders as part of the process of maintaining and developing commercial and policy connections with Iceland and Denmark. 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 diplomatic officials from Denmark and Iceland. Disclosure is also 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.

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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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