- 18 Nov 2021
Date received: 23 Aug 2021
Date responded: 3 Nov 2021
Please provide details of: all (a) meetings, (b) telephone calls and (c) emails between the First Minister and Sanjeev Gupta in 2016.
In the case of a) and b), please provide the dates of discussions and any minutes or briefing notes summarising the discussions. Please also provide any briefing notes prepared for the First Minister in advance of these discussions.
We have conducted a search of our systems and have identified material that is within scope of your request. These are attached.
Certain information has been redacted under multiple sections of FOISA. Further information regarding both sections can be found in the Annex of this letter.
Our records of Ministerial Engagements indicate that the First Minister met or spoke with Sanjeev Gupta on 24 August, 28 September and 19 December in 2016. The information that the Scottish Government holds that is within scope of your request for the meetings from 2016 is attached.
It may be useful for you to know for the future that Ministerial Engagement records are published on the SG website and can be found here: Ministerial engagements, travel and gifts - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
Reasons for not providing information
Section 30(c) – Prejudicial to the Effective Conduct of Public Affairs
An exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) applies to some the information requested. It is essential for Ministers to be able to communicate, often in confidence, with stakeholders on a range of issues. Disclosing the content of these communications, particularly without the consent of the stakeholder, is likely to undermine the trust in the Scottish Government and will substantially inhibit communications on this type of issue in the future. These stakeholders will be reluctant to provide their views fully and frankly in future correspondence if they believe that their views are likely to be made public, particularly while these discussions are still ongoing and decisions have not been taken, and/or these discussions relate to a sensitive or controversial issue. This would significantly harm the Government’s ability to carry out many aspects of its work, and could adversely affect its ability to gather all of the evidence it needs to make fully informed policies and decisions.
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 and officials a private space within which to communicate with
appropriate external stakeholders as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s policy position on matters, until the Government as a whole can adopt a decision that is sound and likely to be effective. This private space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good policy decisions can be taken based on fully informed advice and evidence.
Section 33(1)(b) – Commercial Interest and the Economy
An exemption under section 33(1)(b) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested because it is likely to prejudice substantially the commercial interests of the parties. This exemption applies because disclosure of this particular information would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the commercial interests of the commercial entities involved.
This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking into 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 some public interest in release to ensure full transparency. However, this is outweighed by the public interest as there is a risk to the companies commercial interests.
Section 38(1)(b) – Personal data
This exemption 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.
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.
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Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House