Publication - FOI/EIR release

Briefings prepared relating to Northern Ireland Protocol: FOI release

Published: 6 Apr 2021
Part of:
Brexit, Public sector

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

Published:
6 Apr 2021
Briefings prepared relating to Northern Ireland Protocol: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202100132048
Date received: 3 Jan 2021
Date responded: 28 Jan 2021
Information requested

From 1 November 2020 to present: Copies of all briefings prepared by civil servants on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Response

Attached is a most of the information 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 an exemption(s) under section(s) 38(1)(b) – Personal Information of a third party, 29 – Formulation of Scottish Administration Policy and 28 – relations with the United Kingdom of FOISA applies to this information. The reasons why that exemption(s) applies are explained in the Annex.

Annex
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION


An exemption(s) under section 38(1)(b) – personal information of a third party – of FOISA applies to some of the information that you have requested. In this instance this means that the names and personal contact information of Scottish Government officials have been redacted from the various ministerial briefings that have been requested.

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.

An exemption under section 29 – formulation of Scottish Administration Policy – of FOISA applies to some of the information that you have requested.

This exemption specifically applies to two sentences in the document entitled “EU EXIT – GB TO NORTHERN IRELAND TRADE – SANITARY AND PHYTOSANITARY (SPS) PRODUCTS – Dec 2020”. The reason for withholding this information is that it represents Scottish Government policy in development. Due to the ongoing uncertainty around new borders arrangements following EU exit the release of this information at this point could cause greater uncertainty and confusion and as such we consider that it would be detrimental to policy development to release the information.

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 however this is outweighed by the public interest in ensuring that confusion around new border controls is minimised.

An exemption under section 28 – relations with the United Kingdom - applies to some of the information that you have requested.

This exemption applies to roughly five sentences in the document entitled Joint Ministerial Committee – Handling Note on Northern Ireland Protocol – 24 Nov 2020. The reason for withholding this information is that it represents private positions of other UK administrations, disclosed to the Scottish Government in confidence at official level. To release this information would represent a breach of trust and reduce the quality of official level working between the Scottish Government and the other administration of the United Kingdom.

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 however this is outweighed by the public interest in ensuring that the Scottish Government and other UK administrations are able to continue working constructively together at official level in relation to the ongoing Brexit situation.

S.28 also applies to a couple of paragraphs in the document entitled “Advice on the International Waste Shipments (Amendments)(EU Exit) Regulations 2020” – the reason for this is that it includes information held by SG in confidence.

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 however this is outweighed by the public interest in ensuring that the Scottish Government and Northern Irish Executive are able to continue working constructively together at official level in relation to the ongoing Brexit situation.

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Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
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