Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs trip to Brussels: FOI release

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

Information requested

"- The fullest possible meeting minutes from the trip to Brussels undertaken by the Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs Angus Robertson, on the dates 31/05/22 - 02/05/22
- The Cabinet Secretary's diary of engagements from that trip"


I enclose copies of most of the information you requested in the format you asked for it. the information relating to your first point is enclosed in Annex A and the information relating to your second point is enclosed in Annex B.

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act (FOISA) applies to some of the information you have requested.

Section 38 of FOISA contains four exemptions, all relating to personal information. Information is exempt from disclosure if it is:

  • the personal data of the person requesting the information (section 38(1)(a));
  • the personal data of a third party (section 38(1)(b));
  • personal census information (section 38(1)(c)); or
  • a deceased person's health record (section 38(1)(d)).

The exemptions in sections 38(1)(a) and (b) regulate the relationship between FOISA, the UK General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018.

An exemption under section 30(b)(ii) (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 and prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs. 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.

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. I have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. I recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate.

However, there is a greater public interest in allowing Ministers and officials a private space within which to explore and refine the Government’s position until the Government as a whole can adopt a policy that is sound and likely to be effective. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good policy decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between Ministers and officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the policy making process, which would not be in the public interest. I am satisfied that disclosure would result in substantial future inhibition and the reasons for this are as follows:

1. I have applied section 30(b)(ii) to dialogue between parties where those parties have expressed personal opinions and exchanges of views and those individuals are protected by the Act from having their recorded free and frank exchanges released in the public domain.
2. The exemption has been applied in areas of sensitivity such as the Northern Ireland Protocol, Brexit negotiations and international relations. Individuals understandably gave their personal opinions on these matters and to disclose the information would amount to a substantial breach of trust and would be highly likely to hinder and inhibit future dialogue and engagement.
3. Furthermore, as well as potentially prejudicing the prospect of further open dialogue with the EU institutions, disclosure could also potentially lead individual Member States and other foreign governments to consider the nature and substance of their contact with the Scottish Government if they believed it likely that information they would reasonably expect to be exchanged on a confidential basis would subsequently be released.

About FOI

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

202200305848 - Information released - Annex A
202200305848 - Information released - Annex B


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

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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