Publication - FOI/EIR release

EU flag on Scottish Government buildings: FOI release

Published: 12 Apr 2021

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

Published:
12 Apr 2021
EU flag on Scottish Government buildings: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202100163181
Date received: 22 Feb 2021
Date responded: 18 Mar 2021
Information requested

Information regarding the flying of the EU flag on Scottish Government buildings.

Response

1. A extract minute of the decision made to fly the EU flag on Scottish Government buildings.

Decisions related to the flying the EU flag on Scottish Government buildings were made by the Scottish Cabinet. While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide the information under this part of your request, because an exemption under section 30(b) (ii) (the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) applies to it. The reasons for applying this exemption are set out below.

Paragraph 2.1 of the Scottish Ministerial Code provides that "the privacy of opinions expressed and advice offered within the Government should be maintained" at all times. Cabinet minutes are essential elements which support and assist collective discussion in the private space which Ministers need to reach agreed positions.

The weekly meeting of the Scottish Cabinet is the highest decision-making forum within the Scottish Government, and it follows that all information considered by Cabinet must be handled with great care.

Properly functioning Cabinet processes are generally recognised to be of vital public interest: Cabinet government is based on the principle of collective responsibility, which the Scottish Ministerial Code defines in the following terms:

"The principle of collective responsibility requires that Ministers should be able to express their views frankly in the expectation that they can argue freely in private while maintaining a united front when decisions have been reached. This in turn requires that the privacy of opinions expressed and advice offered within the Government should be maintained. The internal processes through which a Government decision has been made should not normally be disclosed." (Scottish Ministerial Code, 2018 edition, paragraphs 2.1 and 2.4)"

Cabinet minutes are invariably produced on the assumption that they will not be disclosed until a significant amount of time has elapsed. Section 30(b) (ii) (the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) recognises the need to allow Ministers some private space for discussion. 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 the process of achieving collective responsibility within a private space within which policy positions can be explored and refined by Ministers in order that the Government, as a whole, can reach a final decision. This private thinking space also allows for all options to be properly considered, so that good policy decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between Ministers, which in turn will undermine the quality of the policy-/decision-making process.

2. The total number of buildings this involves?

There are two Scottish Government buildings involved, St Andrews House and Victoria Quay.

3. The total cost of provided EU flags and associated material for all of the required buildings to fly these flags?

Information relating to this question can be found at Annex A.

ANNEX A 

    Expenditure - EU Flags and Fittings

Date

Description

Quantity

Total costs

23/11/2020

3 Yard European Community Flag

5

£                1,411.20

23/11/2020

Inglefield Clips

Admir Spec

5

 

£                    120.00

 

 

Total

£                 1,531.20

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