Information

Correspondence regarding ScotWind allocation: EIR release

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


Information requested

1. The contracts issued and agreed to between Crown Estate Scotland and the successful bidders for each ‘ScotWind’ allocation.

2. The supply chain development statements submitted by the successful bidders for each ScotWind allocation.

3. Scottish Government/Crown Estates Scotland correspondence regarding ScotWind.

4. Briefings provided to Scottish Government ministers on ScotWind in the last 12 months.” (Numbers have been inserted above, to replace the bullet points in your original request, in order to make our response to each section clear to follow)

Further clarification regarding point 3 was provided on 4 February 2022:
Copies of all SG correspondence in the past year regarding ScotWind. This meant the scope of this part of the request was between the dates 28 January 2021 and 27 January 2022 inclusive.

Response

Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to your request as the information you have requested has taken much longer to identify and review than expected.

As the information you have requested is 'environmental information' for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), 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.

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, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.

Points 1 & 2 above:
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested. Therefore we are refusing your requests under the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs. The reasons why this exception applies is explained in the Annex to this letter. However, as specified in my correspondence to you dated 4 February 2022, you may wish to contact Crown Estate Scotland directly for these parts of your request. For Freedom of Information requests please email: freedomofinformation@crownestatescotland.com, call 0131 260 6070 or write to: Crown Estate Scotland, Quartermile Two, 2nd Floor, 2 Lister Square, Edinburgh, EH3 9GL.

Point 3 above:
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, under the exception at regulation 10(4)(b) of the EIRs a public authority may refuse a request for information if it is 'manifestly unreasonable'. The Scottish Information Commissioner's guidance on the regulation 10(4)(b) exception at: http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/Law/EIRs/EIRsExceptions.aspx says that there may “be instances where it is appropriate for the Commissioner to consider the proportionality of the burden on the public authority in terms of the costs and resources involved in dealing with a request when considering the application of this exception”.

Preliminary searches of our electronic records database and also inbox records for only a small selection of staff from Marine Scotland involved in ScotWind shows in excess of 10,000 emails within the scope of your request. The inclusion of any document attachments and further documents arising from fuller searches will hugely increase this figure.

In addition to locating the large number of items held by us potentially in scope of this request, all of this information requires further careful consideration to establish if any exceptions under the EIRs apply to any of the information and redact this information as appropriate. The costs and resources involved in complying with this request would be disproportionate and would not make the request manageable. The time taken to perform our initial searches to gather the initial range of information potentially within the scope of your request has already been extensive. Even given the 20 day extension allowable under the EIRs, it would not be possible to complete the substantial volume of work still required to identify the specific information relevant to your request and to apply redactions to information for which exceptions apply.

For these reasons above, we consider that your request is manifestly unreasonable and so we are refusing it under regulation 10(4)(b). As the exception is conditional we have applied the ‘public interest test’. This means we have, in all the circumstances of this case, considered if the public interest in disclosing 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. While we recognise that there may be some public interest in information about Scottish Government correspondence regarding ScotWind, this is outweighed by the public interest in ensuring the efficient and effective use of public resources by not incurring excessive costs when complying with information requests.

You may however wish to consider reducing the scope of your request in order to make it manageable. For example, you could provide us with details about the particular subject matter(s) you are interested in, or perhaps who the correspondence was between, as your request covers such a large number of departments, developers and external stakeholders. In light of the large number of areas involved within ScotWind, narrowing down the date range will still not make this request manageable.

You may also find it helpful to look at the Scottish Information Commissioner’s ‘Tips for requesting information under FOI and the EIRs’ on his website at: http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/YourRights/Tipsforrequesters.aspx.

Point 4 above:
I attach a copy of some of the information you requested, please refer to the PDF attachment.

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 exceptions under regulations 11(2) (personal information), 10(4)(e) (internal communications) and 10(5)(e) (substantial prejudice to confidentiality of commercial information) of the EIRs applies to that information. The reasons why these exceptions apply are explained in Annex A to this letter.

When reviewing the documents in advance of releasing them we have noted that there are some inaccuracies in some of the documents. Please note the following:

Item 3

  • On page 3, there is an inaccuracy in the second question titled “Q. What resources are you providing to officials / CES to complete this review in time?” The answer notes that the ScotWind review is ‘in combination with CES.’ This is incorrect. The review was carried out by CES and then its conclusions were put before Ministers for their consideration.

Item 4

  • On page 9, the ‘statutory marine plan’ is a drafting error - it is meant to read: ‘sectoral marine plan.’
  • On page 18, in the first line of the answer relating to the second question regarding compensation should read – ‘The Scottish Government does not involve itself in compensation arrangements which are a matter to be brokered between developers and fishers.’

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.

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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