Scottish Government accounting provisions regarding Lochaber Smelter: FOI Review

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

Information requested

Please can you send me a copy of the working papers showing the calculations of the Scottish Government's provisions for the Lochaber Smelter Guarantee Agreement with the GFG Alliance. The two years I would like to look at are 2019/20 when the provision totalled £37m and 2020/21 when the provision totalled £161m.

If you withhold any information on the grounds of prejudice, you must make it precisely clear which parties face prejudice as well as precise details of the nature and extent of any prejudice. You must also take account of the Scottish Information Commissioner's Decision Notice 144/2021.

Upon receipt of your response you submitted the following request for review:

"I am requesting that you carry out an internal review as the response to my FOI request is not satisfactory.

The reasons for my dissatisfaction are:

  • The response appears incomplete (i.e it does not include both years requested).
  • The exemptions claimed do not apply.
  • The public interest test has not been properly carried out.
  • The public interest favours disclosure."


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. I have considered this case again, and I have conducted a comprehensive review of the response, and the reasons behind withholding the requested information. I have concluded that the original decision should be upheld with modifications and as such some additional information contained in the document in scope has been released, and I have done so here.

However, I have concluded that the exemptions originally applied were applied correctly with regards to the majority of the information withheld. I am upholding the application of section 33(1)(b) – commercial interest – to some of the information withheld because if it was released it would negatively impact the business and potentially damage negotiations, day-to-day operations and other activity. Given the importance of the business to the economy of the West Highlands and beyond, along with the interests of the employees who work there, I have determined that the public interest test lies in favour of withholding the information.

This rationale is similar with the application of section 30(b)(ii) – free and frank exchange of views – as, while Scottish Government officials understand the need for transparency as part being an open and responsible Government, Ministers and officials require a necessary and private space to make decisions. This becomes even more important when events with external parties are still ongoing and in an effort to maintain a well-functioning working relationship with companies and external advisors. It is not in the public interest to release information that would prejudice this and deprive the taxpayer of best value for money. I have concluded therefore that, in respect of the information still withheld under FOISA at this time, disclosure would not be favourable.

I have also confirmed with the relevant Scottish Government policy area that the response is complete, there is one document held in scope, it was provided to you and contains both financial years requested. As such the response is not incomplete.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at

FOI 202100265659 - Information released


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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