Publication - FOI/EIR release

Well boats and salmon farms: EIR review

Published: 10 Nov 2020

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

Published:
10 Nov 2020
Well boats and salmon farms: EIR review
FOI reference: FOI/202000084355
Date received: 2 Sep 2020
Date responded: 30 Sep 2020
Information requested

Original request for information:

- Please include data on chemical use including Azamethiphos, Deltamethrin, Hydrogen Peroxide, Emamectin benzoate, Imidacloprid (BMK08/Ectosan) and any other chemicals, medicines, antibiotics and anti-parasiticides which may be used via well boats.

- Please include any discussions relating to the input, sharing and publication of well boat data on chemical use by salmon farms via 'Scotland's Aquaculture' and SEPA's 'Scottish Pollutant Release Inventory' (this would include dialogue with salmon farmers, chemical companies and government agencies).

- Please include copies of any well boat licences issued since 1 October 2018.

- Please provide information on well boat bio-security, cleaning, mort disposal, diseases and chemical waste discharges in relation to salmon farming (including information relating to how and where the wastes, effluents and mortalities are discharged, transported and disposed of).

- Please include any information relating to the transfer of licensing/regulatory powers for well boats from the Scottish Government (Marine Scotland) to SEPA including Cabinet Briefings, emails, letters and any other information.

Response

Following review of the information requested, the exceptions applied and taking into account of the points raised in the review request, I have concluded that the original decision should be confirmed, with modifications.

1. if data already publicly available (subject to regulation 6(1)(b)) could be provided in a different format to that previously provided,
In conducting my review I have given consideration to the points you have raised in relation to the format of the 2018 data. I have concluded that we were entitled to withhold this information under regulation 6(1)(b) (otherwise accessible) as this information is already publicly available and easily accessible in another form or format.

However, in order to be helpful as possible, I attach a further copy of this information in a more accessible format.

2. if all of the relevant information had been identified and included in our response to your request dated 8 July 2020 and for a reconsideration of the application of regulation 10(4)(a) (information not held)
You asked us to check whether data on well boat use of toxic chemicals, and in particular Excel spreadsheets, have been omitted from the Scottish Government's FOI reply, and disclose the data as requested on 8 July 2020. Noting that if this data only became available after 8 July 2020, we were to consider this a new FOI request for data on well boat use of toxic chemicals by the salmon farming industry since 1 January 2019.

I can confirm that this data was not held by the Scottish Government on 8 July 2020 and therefore I have concluded that we were entitled to respond to this part of your request under regulation 10(4)(a) (information not held). However, as you will be aware, we have registered a new request for this information under reference 202000084741 and will respond under separate cover from this letter.

In addition, in conducting my review, I have reconsidered the searches completed when preparing the response to your initial request and conducted further extensive searches of our corporate records and relevant email accounts. As a result I am satisfied that these searches were robust and would have identified all of the information held.

3. a reconsideration of the application of regulation 10(4)(e)(internal communications).
You have expressed dissatisfaction with the case handler’s application of regulation 10(4)(e) (internal communications) held within the scope of your request. I have considered whether this exception was correct and if I agree with the case handler’s application of both the exception and the application of the public interest test.

The case handler considered that an exception under regulation 10(4)(e) (internal communications) applied to some of the information requested.

I have considered the withheld information and I agree that this exception applies because all of the information consists of email exchanges and documents shared between Ministers and officials of the Scottish Government. I am therefore satisfied that we were entitled to withhold this information under regulation 10(4)(e).

I have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception. On balance, I also consider the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. While there is a public interest in disclosing information, there is a greater public interest in allowing private space for officials to provide full and frank advice to Ministers and other officials, and to support effective government policy development and decision-making.

In addition, having reviewed the information previously withheld under regulation 10(4)(e), I am satisfied that an exception under regulation 10(4)(e) of the EIRs applies to most of the information you have requested because it is internal legal advice and disclosure would breach legal professional privilege.

I have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception. I recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, this is outweighed by the strong public interest in maintaining the right to confidentiality of communications between legal advisers and clients, to ensure that Ministers and officials are able to receive legal advice in confidence, like any other public or private organisation.

About FOI

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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