Internal communications regarding SQA appeals: FOI release

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

Information requested

All internal communications involving ministers, special advisers and/or learning directorate officials regarding or referring to the appeals system for 2021 SQA results.

The time frame for this request is 1/3/2021 - 2/6/2021


I enclose a copy of the information you 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 sections 25(1) (publicly available information), 29(1)(b) (Ministerial communications), 30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice), 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) or 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA applies to that information.

Some of the information you have requested is available from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and Scottish Parliament websites – direct links to the information have been provided in the attached Annex. Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website(s) listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.

An exemption under section 29(1)(b) of FOISA (Ministerial communications) applies to some the information requested because it relates to communications between Scottish Ministers.

Exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank advice and exchange of views) apply to some of 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. The exemptions recognise the need for Ministers to have a private space within which to seek advice and views from officials and other parties in the process before reaching the settled public position which will be given in whatever final lines to take are used. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice and views on qualifications and the appeals process will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, particularly because the ability of Ministers and officials to do this without inhibition is vital in order to deliver or develop the process effectively.

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 Ministers and officials a private space within which issues can be explored and refined, until the Government as a whole can reach a decision that is sound and likely to be effective. This private thinking space also allows for all options to be properly considered, so that good 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 decision making process.

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.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at

FOI 202100208812 - Information released - Annex A B & C


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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