Publication - FOI/EIR release

Correspondence between Ministers and Working Group on Short-Term Lets from February 2021: FOI release

Published: 2 Aug 2021

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

Published:
2 Aug 2021
Correspondence between Ministers and Working Group on Short-Term Lets from February 2021: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202100220218
Date received: 2 Jul 2021
Date responded: 30 Jul 2021
Information requested

All correspondence (email, text, letter) between Scottish Government Ministers and officials responsible for the Working Group on Short-Term Lets from February 2021 onwards, and which is directly related to the working group on short-term lets.

Response

I attach a copy of most of the information you requested. Certain exemptions apply to some of the information you requested. Reasons for not providing information are set out below:

An exemption applies

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to a small amount of the information requested because it is personal data. 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

Section 29(1)(b) – Ministerial communications

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

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, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing Ministers 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 policy 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 policy making process.

Section 30(a) – convention of collective responsibility of Scottish Ministers

An exemption under section 30(a) of FOISA (convention of collective responsibility of Scottish Ministers) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the convention of the collective responsibility of Scottish Ministers for the Scottish Government’s policy on short-term lets. Government in Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, has long worked under the convention that Ministers are collectively responsible for policy and its delivery. Collective responsibility requires collective discretion, and ensures that Ministers can express their views frankly in internal discussion of an issue while maintaining a united front once decisions have been reached. Disclosing communications between individual Ministers would prejudice substantially the maintenance of the convention.

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, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in maintaining collective responsibility for the Scottish Government’s policy on short-term lets, once a collective decision has been made. Disclosure of these internal discussions between Ministers would be likely to have the effect of undermining the Government’s position on short-term lets, and thus the effectiveness of the policy, which would not be in the public interest.

Section 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) – free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation

An exemption under sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) (free and frank provision of advice, and free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. 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. 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 before reaching the settled public position We consider that any public interest in release is outweighed by the public interest in enabling Government Ministers to be provided with full and candid advice from officials to enable them to consider their decisions. Premature 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.

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