- 16 Feb 2021
Date received: 19 Jul 2020
Date responded: 30 Oct 2020
Copies of correspondence between (i) the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing; (ii) the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport; (iii) officials within the Population Health Directorate and external stakeholders on proposals to restrict the promotion and marketing of foods high in fat, sugar, or salt between 1 January – 12 June 2020. This request includes (but is not limited to) correspondence related to the Restricting Food Promotions Bill.
Correspondence includes emails and copies of attached documents; briefing and meeting notes; diary entries; audio or video recordings; and other printed or electronic documents.
On request, you clarified on 3 October 2020 that external stakeholders refers to business organisations (which may include trade bodies representing the advertising and food and beverage industries).
I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested.
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 exemptions under sections Sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) – free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in the Annex to this letter.
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION
An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test
Exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank advice and exchange of views) apply to some of the information requested. These exemptions apply because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. The exemptions recognise the need for Ministers and officials to have a private space within which to discuss and seek advice and views from external stakeholders before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank briefing material and discussions with stakeholders on proposals to restrict the promotion and marketing of foods high in fat, sugar or salt will substantially inhibit such briefing and discussions in the future, particularly while these discussions are still ongoing and decisions have not been taken.
These exemptions are 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 a private space within which officials can provide free and frank advice and views to Ministers in briefing. It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers can properly provide sound information to Parliament (to which they are accountable), and robustly defend the Government’s policies. They need full and candid advice from officials to enable them to do so.
There is also greater 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 Government’s policy position on proposals to restrict the promotion and marketing of foods high in fat, sugar or salt, until the Government as a whole can adopt a policy 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 food and drink businesses. 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 policy making process, which would not be in the public interest. There is also an important public interest in avoiding the loss of stakeholder confidence in cases where they thought they were providing comments in confidence, which would be inevitable if an individual’s contribution was released against their wishes.
Due to the size of the files we are unable to upload the documents referred to above. If you wish to consider, please contact us at the address below and we will be happy to provide.
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