Information held in relation to A96 dualling project: EIR release

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


Information requested

1. Any internal Scottish Government emails which include references relating to i) the estimated costs ii) timetable iii) delays iv) downsizing v) financial risks vi) policy reviews associated with the A96 dualling project. I would like this information for the period November 2020 to January 2021.

2. Any a) briefings b) memoranda provided to the Transport Minister and his office which include references relating to i) the estimated costs ii) timetable iii) delays iv) downsizing v) financial risks vi) policy reviews associated with the A96 project dualling project. I would like this information for the period November 2020 to January 2021.

Response

As all of the information you have requested is ‘environmental information’ for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.

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, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.

1. Please refer to Annex A which contains extracts of internal e-mails in reference to the A96 Dualling programme as per your request.

In addition, papers associated with the A96 Dualling Inverness to Aberdeen Programme Board meeting held on 24 November 2020 has previously been released under FOI-202000123574 and can be viewed at the following link: https://www.gov.scot/publications/foi-202000123574/.

2.  Please refer to Annex B which contains extracts of submissions to the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity in relation to the A96 Dualling programme as per your request.

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 exceptions under regulations 10(4)(e) and 11(2) of the EIRs apply to that information.

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 exception under regulation 10(4)(e) of the EIRs (internal communications) applies to some of the information because it is internal communications between a) Scottish Government officials, and b) Scottish Government Ministers and officials about the A96 Dualling Programme which is still in the early stages of development. This exception has been applied to Annex A and B contained within this response. The reasons why that exception applies are explained below.

This exception 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 exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. We recognise that there is some public interest in release as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in maintaining 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 discussions on the A96 Dualling Programme 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 development. The information requested is internal communication regarding development of government policy and if released would otherwise impact on effective conduct of public affairs.

A further exception under regulation 11(2) of the EIRs (personal information) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party 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. This exception 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 exception. This exception has been applied to Annexes A and B contained within this response.

The Scottish Government is committed to dualling the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen. Delivery of each section of the dualling programme can only commence if it is approved under the relevant statutory procedures and thereafter a timetable for its progress can be set.

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.

FOI202100154186 - Annex A

FOI202100154186 - Annex B

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

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