Freedom of Information Request: Lochaber Smelter (GFG Covid-19 Delay Agreement, 12 Nov 2020).
This is a formal request for information under FOISA.
I am seeking full disclosure of the attached document on the basis that any claimed FOISA exemptions do not apply and that the public interest favours disclosure.
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information requested as exemptions under FOISA apply. Further information in what exemptions apply can be found in Annex A.
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING THE INFORMATION
Section 33(1)(b) – Commercial Interests
An exemption under section 33(1)(b) of FOISA (commercial interests) applies to some the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure of this particular information would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the commercial interests of the parties to the GRA. Release of this information is likely to weaken the negotiating position of the business while providing commercially sensitive information to competitors. It is also likely to have an impact on the long term profitability and attractiveness of the business to future investors. As has been widely publicised, GFG is still in active refinancing and restructuring negotiations with creditors and prospective lenders worldwide. This information is still therefore sensitive and releasing detailed information from interactions between the Scottish Government and GFG as well as specific details regarding the guarantee, which are not in the public domain, could negatively influence this process. The refinancing and restructuring exercise being undertaken by GFG is clearly a critical process for the businesses and any influence on this could harm both GFG, and the Scottish Government as a key financial stakeholder. Any negative impact on the business arising from the release of this information could have a consequential impact on the Scottish Government given its potential financial exposure to GFG.
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 and transparent government, and to help account for the expenditure of public money. However, there is a greater public interest that the GFG Alliance can operate effectively in a commercial context to ensure the continued profitability and viability of the business, given its position as a major source of employment in the West Highlands.
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.
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
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