- 31 Mar 2021
Date received: 16 Dec 2020
Date responded: 14 Jan 2021
Correspondence (emails, letters, memos, minutes of meetings, minutes of calls, whatsapp messages, texts and/or otherwise) between civil servants, special advisors and/or Kevin Stewart regarding the homelessness statistics published in August 2020.
Attached is a copy of most of the information requested.
Some of the information you have requested is available from the Scottish Government website. This has been indicated in the attached documents. Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you.
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) (Personal Data Relating to a Third Party) of FOISA also applies to a small amount of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. contact details of individuals, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act 1998. 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.
Exemptions under sections 30(b) (i) and (ii) (free and frank exchange of views) of FOISA 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 give and seek advice and views before reaching a settled public position - which will be given in whatever final press and other public lines are used. Disclosing the content of free and frank briefing material on the publication of these statistics will substantially inhibit such briefing 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 official can express free and frank advice to each other, and to Ministers. It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers and officials can properly interpret and respond to queries about these statistics and how this evidence informs the Government’s policies and decisions. They need full and candid advice to enable them to do so. Premature 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.
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