Publication - FOI/EIR release

Briefings provided to Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local government: FOI release

Published: 1 Dec 2021

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

Published:
1 Dec 2021
Briefings provided to Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local government: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202100232962
Date received: 31 Aug 2021
Date responded: 9 Nov 2021
Information requested

Briefing provided to the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government and the Minister for Social Security and Local Government in the 7 days following the 19th May 2021, following their appointment earlier this year.

Response

Attached is a number of documents that satisfy your request. 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 a number of exemptions apply. The exemptions and reasons for applying them are found below.

The documents which satisfy your request are:
1. an organogram displaying the structure of the Director General Communities;
2. a Director General Communities collective briefing document for incoming Ministers;
3. a Social Security Scotland briefing document for incoming Ministers;
4. a Directorate for Social Security briefing document for incoming Ministers;
5. a Ministerial Submission on Best Start Foods;
6. Ministerial Submission on a Coronavirus Carer's Allowance Supplement in December 2021;
7. a Public Services Ministerial Group briefing;
8. a table of benefits eligibility delivery dates and values;
9. a briefing email on Discretionary Housing Payments in Scotland. The documents mentioned are now
publicly available from the Scottish Government website -
https://www.gov.scot/publications/discretionary-housing-payments-in-scotland-1-april-2020-to-31-march-
2021/

10. a Ministerial briefing note of a meeting to discuss 8th June debate on tackling poverty;
11. a Single Building Assessment Briefing;
12. Annex B to the Single Building Assessment;

A briefing on Short-Term Lets was also provided to the Cabinet Secretary however, this has already been released as part of another FOI request and can be found in Annex C of the published response -
https://www.gov.scot/publications/foi-202100220218/.

A Ministerial working group Mortgage Lending Cladding report was also provided which can be found at – https://www.gov.scot/publications/ministerial-working-group-mortgage-lending-cladding-report-march-
2021/documents/


An FAQs document on Ministerial Working Group on Mortgage Lending and Cladding was also provided which can be found at - https://www.gov.scot/publications/ministerial-working-group-onmortgage-lending-and-cladding-questions-answered/

REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION

An exemption applies

While it is the Scottish Government’s aim to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we have had to withhold some of the information you have requested. This is because a number of exemptions apply to some of the information you have requested.

An exemption under Section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (substantial inhibition of free and frank provision of advice) applies to documents 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, and 12. This exemption has been applied as some of the information you have requested includes indicative timelines and advice to Ministers on potentially sensitive issues.

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 some public interest in releasing this information however, there is a need for Ministers and officials to have a private space to seek advice and discuss options before reaching a settled public view. Disclosing the content of such advice and discussions would substantially inhibit the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views in the future, particularly while discussions are ongoing and decisions have not been taken, and if those discussions relate to sensitive or controversial issues.

An exemption under Section 33(1)(b) of FOISA (substantial prejudice to commercial interests) applies to document 3. This exemption has been applied as some of the information you have requested relates to commercial interests regarding Social Security that have the potential to be impacted and prejudiced by releasing them.

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 some public interest in releasing this however, due to the potential prejudice to commercial interests regarding Social Security this outweighs the public interest.

An exemption under Section 29(1)(a) of FOISA (formulation or development of government policy) applies to documents 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. This exemption has been applied as some of the information you have requested includes advice on the formulation of new and existing government policy which has not yet reached a settled decision.

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 some public interest in releasing this however, there is a need for Ministers and officials to have a private space to discuss options before reaching a settled public view in regards to the formulation and development government policy. Disclosing the content of such discussions would substantially inhibit the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views in the future, particularly while discussions are ongoing and decisions have not been taken on said policy, and if those discussions relate to sensitive or controversial issues.

An exemption under Section 28(1) of FOISA (substantial prejudice to relations between the Scottish Government and another UK administration) applies to documents 4 and 6. This exemption has been applied as some of the information you have requested contains ongoing discussions between the Scottish and UK Governments on Social Security which, if disclosed, could impede on any future communications between Government administrations.

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 some public interest in release this information however, it is essential for the effective administration of the UK as a whole that there should be regular, and often private, communications between the UK Government, the Scottish Government, and the other devolved administrations. The release of such communications against the wishes of the other government will mean that they are likely to be more reluctant to communicate as frequently and openly with the Scottish Government in future.

About FOI
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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