You expressed you were not satisfied with our reply to your original Freedom of Information (FoI) request which was allocated reference number 202100250059. You submitted the following statement/request:
“The response to my foi request isn't satisfactory so I am asking you to carry out an internal review.
The reasons for my dissatisfaction are:
• Circumstances have changed since the report was published.
• The FOISA exemptions claimed do not apply.
• The public interest test has not been properly carried out.
• The public interest favours disclosure.
• The Scottish Information Commissioner's Decision Notice 144/2021 has not been considered.”
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.
My review has confirmed that some additional information can be released as this has since been published in the public domain and as a result I have attached a revised redacted document for you. The released information can be found on page 44 of the document which details the original £586m gross (undiscounted) exposure over the 25 years of the guarantee from 2016.
On consideration of the arguments and completion of my review I am satisfied that the existing exemptions still apply to the information that continues to be withheld. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in Annex B.
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION
An exemption under section 33(1)(b) of FOISA (commercial interests) applies to some of the information requested. This has been applied to specific pieces of information related to the commercial interests of the parties to the GRA. We have applied this exemption as release of the information would – or would be likely to – prejudice substantially the commercial interests of the commercial entities involved. 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.
The information is not in the public interest given it could have a bearing on and potentially prejudice the commercial interests of the parties involved in terms of placing them at a competitive disadvantage. It is in the public interest that the GFG Alliance can negotiate effectively in commercial contexts to ensure the continued profitability and viability of the business, given its position as a major source of employment in the West Highlands.
An exemption under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. This exemption recognises the need for Ministers and officials to have a private space within which to discuss and explore options before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank discussions on the Lochaber Guarantee will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, particularly because these discussions relate to a commercially sensitive and on-going matter. This exemption also recognises the openness from the business on matter which should be allowed to be expressed in a private space for Ministers consideration and awareness.
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies to the names and contact details of officials, and equivalent third party representatives below senior civil service (SCS) level and the direct contacts of more senior officials.
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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