Communications regarding Ramsar sites: EIR release

Information request and response under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004


Information requested

Please supply and publish on www.gov.scot the following information:
1. Any final submission for approval (by Ministers or otherwise), since and including 9 September 2021 and pursuant to the Briefing Document (as per items a and d above), relating to planning policy protection for Ramsar sites and/or features.

2. Documentation of the approval, on or about 8 November 2021, of the “… approach to reviewing/strengthening policy protection for Ramsar features alongside other 30×30 requirements and agreed lines to take in terms of maintaining the status quo within NPF4” as described in the Ramsar Update (as per item a above). [It is envisaged that this may be a reply to item 1].

3. Any further documents (including emails and/or notes of meetings and telephone conversations) recording:

  • any followup process(es) to item 2, including but not limited to any “detailed work plan” as described in the Briefing Document, and/or
  • any proposals and/or agreements, since and including 22 January 2019, as to what action should be taken about the 2019 Ramsar Guidance (as per item b above) in the event of, or resulting from, a decision to strengthen policy protection for Ramsar features.

4. If item 1 is redacted or withheld in such a way that no clear recommendation can be identified, please publish the email of 9 September 2021 and the accompanying Briefing Document (as per item a above).

5. If item 2 is redacted or withheld in such a way that no clear decision or decision-maker can be identified, please publish the Ramsar Update of 8 November 2021 (as per item a above).

Response

The information you have requested is ‘environmental information’ for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), and we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.

Scottish Government is committed to publishing all Freedom of Information/EIR requests. These responses can be found at Publications - gov.scot (www.gov.scot).

1. Any final submission for approval (by Ministers or otherwise), since and including 9 September 2021 and pursuant to the Briefing Document (as per items a and d above), relating to planning policy protection for Ramsar sites and/or features.

This request relates to a submission which was made to Ministers outlining options on the policy protection for Ramsar sites/features. An exception under regulation 10(4)(e) of the EIRs (internal communications) applies to the information you have requested because this information is an internal Scottish Government briefing on the policy protection of Ramsar sites. We are therefore withholding this document. 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 exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. We recognise that there is some public interest in release as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development of policies and decisions. This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications. Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government’s view on that issue.

2. Documentation of the approval, on or about 8 November 2021, of the “… approach to reviewing/strengthening policy protection for Ramsar features alongside other 30×30 requirements and agreed lines to take in terms of maintaining the status quo within NPF4” as described in the Ramsar Update.

This document is withheld as exception under regulation 10(4)(e) of the EIRs (internal communications) also applies to some of the information you have requested because it is internal communication between Scottish Government Ministers and officials about how the Scottish Government expects its policy on the protection of Ramsar sites to be implemented.

3. Any further documents (including emails and/or notes of meetings and telephone conversations) recording:

  • any followup process(es) to item 2, including but not limited to any “detailed work plan” as described in the Briefing Document, and/or 
  • any proposals and/or agreements, since and including 22 January 2019, as to what action should be taken about the 2019 Ramsar Guidance (as per item b above) in the event of, or resulting from, a decision to strengthen policy protection for Ramsar features.

Attached to this response, please see:

In reviewing these documents and emails, some elements of the text have been redacted as they either fall under the exception under regulation 10(4)(e) of the EIRs as relating to internal communication and/or legal opinion. In addition, some of the information contained falls under an exception under regulation 11(2) of the EIRs (personal information) also applies to the information requested because it is personal data of a third party 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 exception 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 exception.

In addition to the documents released, other documents were considered to fall wholly the exception under regulation 10(4)(e) of the EIRs as relating to legal opinion and/or internal communication and therefore withheld. Disclosure of internal legal advice would breach legal professional privilege.

All the exceptions under this part of the request are 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 exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. We recognise that there is some public interest in release as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development of policies and decisions. This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications. Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government’s view on that issue.

4. If item 1 is redacted or withheld in such a way that no clear recommendation can be identified, please publish the email of 9 September 2021 and the accompanying Briefing Document.

Attached to this response, please see:

  • Email: Policy Protection for Ramsar sites
  • Document: Options for Strengthening Ramsar Policy Protection Alongside NPF4

In reviewing these documents, some elements of the text have been redacted as they either fall under the exception under regulation 10(4)(e) of the EIRs as relating to internal communication for development of policy. All the exceptions under this part of the request are 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 exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. We recognise that there is some public interest in release as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development of policies and decisions. This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications. Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government’s view on that issue.

In addition, some of the information contained falls under an exception under regulation 11(2) of the EIRs (personal information) also applies to the information requested because it is personal data of a third party 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 exception 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 exception.

5. If item 2 is redacted or withheld in such a way that no clear decision or decision-maker can be identified, please publish the Ramsar Update of 8 November 2021 (as per item a above).

Attached to this response, please see:

  • Email: Ramsar citation update

In reviewing these documents, some elements of the text have been redacted as they either fall under the exception under regulation 10(4)(e) of the EIRs as relating to internal communication for development of policy. All the exceptions under this part of the request are 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 exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. We recognise that there is some public interest in release as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development of policies and decisions. This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications. Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government’s view on that issue.

In addition, some of the information contained falls under an exception under regulation 11(2) of the EIRs (personal information) also applies to the information requested because it is personal data of a third party 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 exception 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 exception.

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.

FOI - 202100266916 - Information Released - Annex

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

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