Information

Deputy First Minister communication regarding 2021 exam diet: FOI release

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


Information requested

1. Any emails, text messages, OneNote memos, or other correspondence between John Swinney, his ministerial office and/or special advisers and the SQA on the topic of the 2021 exams diet and alternative certification model between November 1, 2020 to the date of this request.

2. Any emails, text messages, OneNote memos, or other correspondence between John Swinney, his ministerial office and/or special advisers to the National Qualifications Group on the topic of the 2021 exams diet and alternative certification model between November 1, 2020 to the date of this request.

3. The details of any meetings, phone calls or virtual video conferences held between Mr Swinney and any of his ministerial office and/or special advisers and any member of the National Qualifications Group since November 1, 2020 to the date of this request. This should include but not be limited to, details of those who attended, the location and date of the meetings, the agenda, any minutes, and any notes circulated from the meeting, and any follow-up emails or memos.

Response

Attached is a copy 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 under section 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views), 38(1)(b) (personal information) or 12 (exceeds upper cost limit) of FOISA applies to that information.

An exemption under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs – free and frank exchange of views) applies to some of the information requested. Disclosing this information would substantially prejudice our ability to exchange views in an open way whilst deliberating sensitive policy issues relating to the alternative certification model for the National Qualifications that remain under consideration, and would constitute substantial prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs in terms of the exemption.

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. However, there is a greater public interest in ensuring that free and frank views can be exchanged in sensitive discussions around ongoing delivery of the alternative certification model for the National Qualifications for young people in Scotland, and ensuring that the Scottish Government is able to conduct this aspect of its business effectively.

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. names and contact details, 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 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.

Also, while as stated, we aim to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the costs of locating, retrieving and providing some of the information requested would exceed the upper cost limit of £600. This applies to part 3 of your request, as the request is very broad, covering any subject matter and a large time period. Under section 12 of FOISA public authorities are not required to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying would exceed the upper cost limit, which is currently set at £600 by Regulations made under section 12.

You may, however, wish to consider reducing the scope of your request in order that the costs can be brought below £600. This could involve specifying particular subject matter, e.g. 2021 exam diet/alternative certification method, or narrowing the timeframe of the request to e.g. a one month period.

You may also find it helpful to look at the Scottish Information Commissioner’s ‘Tips for requesting information under FOI and the EIRs’ on his website at: http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/YourRights/Tipsforrequesters.aspx.

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.

FOI202100203007 - Information released

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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