Publication - FOI/EIR release

Chancellor’s Summer Economic Update: FOI release

Published: 16 Sep 2020

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

Published:
16 Sep 2020
Chancellor’s Summer Economic Update: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202000067984
Date received: 29 Jul 2020
Date responded: 21 Aug 2020
Information requested

1. Whether any briefings/memos or other work was undertaken for Scottish Government ministers and/or special advisors in relation to the Chancellor’s Summer Economic Update on 8 July 2020.
Please provide copies of this material where it exists.
2. Details and minutes of any meetings (virtual or otherwise) held between Scottish Government ministers and/or officials where the Chancellor’s Summer Economic Update on 8 July 2020 was discussed.

Response

I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested in Annex II.
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:

s. 28(1) (relations between Administrations of the UK)
s. 29(1)(a) (formulation and development of Scottish Government policy)
s. 30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice)
s. 38(1)(b) (personal information)

of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in Annex I to this letter.

ANNEX I
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION
An exemption applies

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. the names/contact details of individuals, 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.

An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test

s.28(1) (relations between Administrations of the UK)
An exemption under section 28(1) of FOISA 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. It is essential for the effective administration of the UK as a whole that there should be regular and confidential communications between the Scottish Government and other UK Government Departments, such as HM Treasury. 
The release of briefings based on internal communications about the Chancellor’s summer economic update, and the policies announced therein, will mean that the UK Government is likely to be more reluctant to share such information with the Scottish Government in future, which would reduce both the frequency and openness of communications between the Scottish Government and other UK administrations at such a critical time.

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 good relations 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 the response to COVID-19. There is no public interest in disclosing information when that will damage relationships and disrupt future communications.

s.29(1)(a) (formulation and development of Scottish Government policy)
An exemption under section 29(1)(a) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested because it relates to the development of the Scottish Government’s policy response to the Chancellor’s announcements, including its decisions on devolved matters, such as Scottish Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT).

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 some public interest in release because we wish to be an 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 these discussions 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.

s.30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice)
Exemptions under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA apply 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 to Ministers. The exemption recognises the need for officials to have the ability to advise Ministers freely and frankly. Disclosing the content of the free and frank provision of advice on the Chancellor's summer economic update could substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future.

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. 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 and decisions. They need full and candid advice from officials to enable them to do so. Disclosure of this type of information could lead to a reduction in the comprehensiveness and frankness of such advice and views in the future, which would not be in the public interest.

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