Publication - FOI/EIR release

Documents pertaining to GFG Alliance and Liberty Steel: FOI review

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

Published:
19 Jul 2021
Documents pertaining to GFG Alliance and Liberty Steel: FOI review
FOI reference: FOI/202100216003 review of 202100204021
Date received: 21 Jun 2021
Date responded: 16 Jul 2021
Information requested

Please supply the following information:

1. A copy of the sale agreement with GFG Alliance/ Liberty for the sale of the Dalzell and Clydebridge steelworks.

2. A Copy of the due diligence carried out on the transaction.

Upon receipt of your response to this request, you subsequently submitted a review request for the following reasons:

I am requesting an internal review for the following reasons:

1. Some of the information redacted is already in the public domain.

2. The exemptions do not apply to some or all the information redacted.

3. the public interest test has not been properly carried out.

4. The public interest favours disclosure.

Response

I have been asked to look at your request afresh, to decide whether the original response should be confirmed, with or without modifications, as appropriate, or that a fresh decision should be substituted. I can confirm that I was not involved in the handling or decision-making around the original response.

I have considered this case again, and I have conducted a comprehensive review of the response, and the reasons behind withholding the requested information. I have concluded that the original decision should be confirmed with modifications. As such, I have attached new versions of the documents that fell within the scope of your request with more information released.

Having reviewed this request and the information previously withheld, I have concluded that some of the information previously withheld under section 33(1)(b) (commercial prejudice) was incorrectly withheld and can now be disclosed due to the lapse in time since the initial release and this diminishing the effect of the commercial damage that would be caused. I have attached this as a separate document.

Regarding the exemptions under section 33(1)(b) these have been applied to specific clauses related to the commercial terms of the sale agreement and the remediation costs contained in the Soil and Groundwater Contamination Liability Assessment. We have applied this exemption as release of the information would – or would be likely to – prejudice substantially the commercial interests that the parties to the agreement hold. The information is commercial in nature and the parties are bound by confidentiality under the BSA. To disclose estimates of potential costs for Clydebridge and Dalzell would provide an unfair advantage to outside parties and would cause substantial harm to a legitimate economic interest as it would provide any future investors/funders with knowledge about the costs of redevelopment of the site.

In terms of the information withheld in the BSA itself, the information withheld would if released have a negative impact on the parties negotiating position with other buyers or sellers in the future should they enter into the sale or purchase of similar assets. Commercial entities and Scottish Ministers must be able to negotiate freely the commercial terms of agreements and release of this information may give competitors commercial insight. We therefore conclude that, although there is a public interest for transparency, this exemption still applies in order to protect the ongoing commercial interests of the parties involved, as well as the Scottish Government achieving best value for money.

In withholding this information, we are mindful of the further need to apply the public interest test given exemption 33(1)b is subject to this test. In applying that test, we again conclude that release of this financial information is not in the public interest given it could have a bearing on the future ability of the Scottish Government to negotiate terms with commercial organisations. It would – or would be likely to – affect our position in future relationship with commercial organisations seeking advice or support from the Scottish Government to safeguard Scotland’s commercial interests and protect jobs in those commercial organisations.

Scottish Government officials are unaware of any further information currently withheld being in the public domain at present.

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