Publication - FOI/EIR release

Fish Farming Businesses meetings: EIR release

Published: 6 Aug 2020

Information request and response under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004

Published:
6 Aug 2020
Fish Farming Businesses meetings: EIR release
FOI reference: FOI/202000047081
Date received: 12 Jun 2020
Date responded: 14 Jul 2020
Information requested

Minutes, attendees, and meeting place of meetings between Fergus Ewing and fish farming businesses in the last 2 years (12 June 2018 - 12 June 2020), including other industries seeking to farm other natural products such as kelp.

Response

As the information you have requested is ‘environmental information’ for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.

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, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.

The information you have requested is in the table below. Mr Ewing attended all these meetings, along with Scottish Government (SG) officials.

Date

Business

Place

Invited attendees

08/04/2019

Loch Duart Ltd (LDL)

Atlantic Quay Glasgow

 

Alban Denton (LDL), Mike Palmer (SG)

08/04/2019

Greig Seafood (GS)

Atlantic Quay Glasgow

 

Grant Cumming (GS), Mike Palmer (SG)

08/04/2019

MOWI (M)

Atlantic Quay Glasgow

Ewan McColl, & Gideon Pringle (M)  Mike Palmer (SG)

08/04/2019

Scottish Seafarms (SSF)

Atlantic Quay Glasgow

 

Jim Gallacher (SSF), Mike Palmer (SG)

15/05/2019

Scottish Salmon Company (SSC)

Scottish Parliament Edinburgh

Craig Anderson (SSC), Kate Higgins & Graham Black (SG)

29/05/2019

Dawnfresh Farming Ltd (DFL)

Scottish Parliament Edinburgh

Alison Hutchins (DFL), Kate Higgins & Mike Palmer (SG)

29/05/2019

Kames Fish Farming

Scottish Parliament Edinburgh

 

Stuart Cannon

29/05/2019

MOWI

Scottish Parliament Edinburgh

 

Ben Hadfield (M), Kate Higgins (SG)

 

09/10/2019

Bakkafrost

Scottish Parliament Edinburgh

 

Regin Jacobsen

 

05/11/2019

Cooke Aquaculture (CA)

Scottish Parliament Edinburgh

 

Colin Blair (CA) Mike Palmer (SG)

26/11/2019

MOWI ASA (MA)

Norway

Ivan Vindheim (MA), Kate Higgins (SG)

The table lists meetings with aquaculture businesses only, but not trade bodies, sector groups, or any businesses that provide services for aquaculture. Only Scottish Government Senior Civil Servant attendees are listed, and it should be noted that while routinely invited to such meetings, on some occasions, they may not actually attend. 
A list of all Ministerial engagements can be found at: 
https://www.gov.scot/collections/ministerial-engagements-travel-and-gifts/.
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have, or is withholding some of the information you have requested. Therefore we are refusing part of your request under the exceptions at regulation 10(4) (a), 10(4) (e), and 11 (2) of the EIRs. The reasons why these exceptions apply are explained in the Annex to this letter.

ANNEX
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION

Regulation 10(4) (a) – information not held
An exception under regulation 10(4) (a) of the EIRs (information not held), the Scottish Government is not required to provide information which it does not hold.
This exception 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 exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. While we recognise that there may be some public interest in information about meetings between Mr Ewing and aquaculture businesses, clearly we cannot provide information which we do not hold.

Regulation 10(4) (e) – internal communications
An exception under regulation 10(4)(e) of the EIRs (internal communications) applies to some of the information you have requested because it is internal communication in the form of Ministerial briefings, notes and emails between Scottish Government Ministers and officials about the above meetings with aquaculture businesses.

This exception 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 exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. We recognise that there is some public interest in release 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 aquaculture industry 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.

Regulation 11(2) – Personal data of a third party
An exception under regulation 11(2) of the EIRs (personal information) applies to some 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 exception 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 exception.

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