Publication - FOI/EIR release

Meeting held with Grant Thornton discussing Burntisland Fabrications Limited (BIFAB): FOI release

Published: 8 Jun 2021

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

Published:
8 Jun 2021
Meeting held with Grant Thornton discussing Burntisland Fabrications Limited (BIFAB): FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202100195655
Date received: 25 Feb 2021
Date responded: 25 May 2021
Information requested

A copy of all meeting minutes on the subject of Burntisland Fabrications Limited [BIFAB] where Grant Thornton (commercial advisors) participated -

  • During the calendar year 2020
  • Covered the subject of loans
Response

Attached is a copy of all meeting minutes in which Grant Thornton participated during 2020 where loans were discussed relating to BiFab. While our aim is to provide information in full whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because of exemptions under section 30(b)(i) – free and frank provision of advice: section 30(b)(ii) – free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation; section 33(1)(b) – commercial interests; and section 38(1)(b) – personal data of a third party.

The information has been redacted and the reasons why the exemptions apply are explained in the Annex.

Annex 
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION

An exemption applies
An exemption(s) under section(s) section 38(1)(b) (personal data of a third party) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. This exemption applies to the names of third parties referenced throughout the documents within scope of the request. The Scottish Government has a policy of not disclosing the names of officials who are not Senior Civil Servants. The names of BiFab and DF Barnes employees who are not board members, and the names of our commercial advisors, have also been redacted to protect their privacy.

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 applies, subject to the public interest test
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank advice and exchange of views) apply to some 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. These exemptions recognise the need for Ministers to have a private space within which to seek advice and views from officials before reaching a settled public position. Disclosing sections of the discussions with DF Barnes and Grant Thornton would substantially inhibit such briefing in the future. These stakeholders would potentially be unwilling to provide their advice in full if they thought those views were likely to be made public. This is especially a risk when these discussions relate to a complex issue such as commercial negotiations.

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 officials and external stakeholders can provide free and frank advice to Ministers.

It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers can properly consider all options and decisions can be taken on fully informed advice and evidence. They need full and candid advice from officials to enable them to do so. 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.

An exemption under section 33(1)(b) of FOISA (commercial interests) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure of this particular information would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the commercial interests of DF Barnes. Disclosing this information would be likely to give DF Barnes competitors an advantage in future similar tendering exercises, which would substantially prejudice their ability to submit competitive tenders and so could significantly harm their commercial business. This exemption is also applied where the material relates to live commercial contracts. Disclosing the information would provide market intelligence that otherwise would not be available thus impacting on the ability of the business to perform.

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 and transparent government, and to help account for the expenditure of public money. However, there is a greater public interest in protecting the commercial interests of companies which provide information to the Scottish Government to ensure the continued sharing of information with the Scottish Government. In turn this will ensure that the decisions taken by the Scottish Government are as robust as possible and obtain the best value for public money.

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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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