Publication - FOI/EIR release

Communication relating to the export of livestock: EIR release

Published: 12 May 2021

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

Published:
12 May 2021
Communication relating to the export of livestock: EIR release
FOI reference: FOI/202100174195
Date received: 12 Mar 2021
Date responded: 12 Apr 2021
Information requested

From 1st November 2020 to the day this request is processed please provide all correspondence and communications on the export of livestock between Andrew Voas, Scottish Government veterinary head of animal welfare, and the following organisations and individuals -
1 - Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism
2 - Ben Macpherson, Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment
3 - Aviagen, Edinburgh
4 - Animal, Plant and Health Agency

From 1st November 2020 to the day this request is processed please provide all correspondence and communications on the export of livestock between Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism and -
1 - UK Government/Defra
2 - National Farmers Union Scotland
3 - Animal, Plant and Health Agency
4 - Northern Ireland Assemby

From 1st November 2020 to the day this request is processed, please provide all correspondence and communications on the export of livestock between Ben Macpherson, Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, and -
1 - UK Government/Defra
2 - National Farmers Union Scotland
3 - Animal, Plant and Health Agency
4 - Northern Ireland Assembly

I define “correspondence and communications” as including (but not limited to) the following:
- Emails (and their attachments)
- Letters
- Memos
- Briefings
- Research documents
- Notes taken during telephone conversations
- Minutes taken during meetings/invitations

Response

As 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 regulation 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.

Attached is a copy of some 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 exemptions under regulations 11(2) (personal data of third party), 10(5)(a) (international relations), 10(4)(a) (information not held) and 10(4)(e) internal communication of EIRS apply to that information. The reasons why those exemptions apply are explained below.

Regulation 11(2)
An exemption(s) under regulation 11(2) of EIRS applies to some of the information you have requested. This exemption applies because the information is personal data of a third person and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles of the United Kingdom General Data
Protection Regulation and in regulation 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018.

This exemption is subject to the 'public interest test' where it relates to the names of public authority employees. 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 have included the names of the organisations for which these public authority employees work.

Regulation 10(5)(a)
An exemption(s) under regulation 10(5)(a) of EIRS applies to some of the information you have requested. This exemption applies where the disclosure of information would, or would likely cause, prejudice to international relations.

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 as part of open and transparent government. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in maintaining working relations between the UK and devolved administrations going forward. Ministers communicate in confidence as part of the policy development process and disclosure of such correspondence could have an adverse impact on the willingness to share such information in future.

Regulation 10(4)(a)
Our aim is to provide information whenever possible. However, in this instance, some of the information you have requested is not held by the Scottish Government for the purposes of EIRS because we received it in confidence from the UK Government. This means that, under the terms of regulation 10(4)(a) of EIRS, we are unable to disclose it in response to your request. However, you may wish to submit a new request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs at defra.helpline@defra.gov.uk who should be able to help you further.

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.

While we recognise that there may be some public interest in information about the export of livestock we cannot release information that has been provided in confidence by the UK Government as this may undermine our relationship with it in relation to any matter.

Regulation 10(4)(e)
An exemption(s) under regulation 10(4)(e) of EIRS applies to some of the information you have requested. This relates to internal communications within a public authority.

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 disclosing the information as part of open and transparent government, and to inform public debate. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in allowing Ministers and officials a private space within which policy positions on a matter of such vital importance to animal welfare can be explored and refined, until the Scottish Government can adopt a policy that is sound and likely to be effective. This private thinking space also allows for all options to be properly considered, so that good policy decisions can be taken based on the best advice available.

You may be interested in the Scottish Government’s response to a Scottish Parliamentary Question at https://www.parliament.scot/chamber-and-committees/written-questions-and-answers/question?ref=S5W-36023

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