You expressed you were not satisfied with our reply to your original Freedom of Information (FoI) request which was allocated reference number 202200307645:
1) Any internal or external correspondence between the Scottish Government and LibertySteel or the GFG Alliance on the topic of the company's "investment activity" at Lochaberfrom the date of January 1, 2022 to date.
2) Confirmation the Scottish Government still understands, as detailed in FOI202200273210 that the company is still "committed" to its "investment activity" at Lochaber.
Upon receipt of your response you submitted the following request for review:
“I am writing to request an internal review of this decision.
I believe the exemptions applied either do not apply to the extent used in regards to the redactions of the documents or other withheld information, and if they do, I believe the public interest is demonstrably in favour of disclosure.
The Scottish Government's deals with GFG Alliance are of significant political and public interest, potentially causing embarrassment to the government and with a significant exposure of taxpayer money. The only way for meaningful scrutiny of the government's dealings with a company under investigation for its conduct is through disclosure of these documents in full, unredacted.”
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 some modifications and as such some additional information contained within the documents held in scope has now been released.
I have determined that the application of the exemption at section 33(1)(b) (commercial interests) to some information in the original response was appropriate in most cases, and in the public interest. I am satisfied that if this information were released it would negatively impact the business and potentially damage negotiations, day-to-day operations and other activity. Whilst I recognise that there would be some public interest in release of the information in terms of providing greater openness, I consider that this is outweighed by the public interest in ensuring that private sector partners can share commercially sensitive information with Government with confidence that such information will be handled with due sensitivity.
However, I have decided that a small amount of the information previously withheld under section 33(1)(b) ought in fact to have been provided. That information is included in the revised versions of the release documents attached with this letter.
I have also decided that that application of section 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views) to some information was appropriate and in the public interest. While the Scottish Government understands 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.
In relation to the application of section 36(1) (confidentiality in legal proceedings), this was referenced in error within the original response and I can confirm that no information was withheld for these reasons.
I have also considered the application of section 38(1)(b) (personal information), and have found this to have been applied appropriately to the personal information of individuals named within the information. Section 38(1)(b) is an absolute exemption and as such is not subject the public interest test. I can confirm that the names of relevant Senior Civil Servants or equivalents have been released and the personal information withheld has been done in line with the FOISA guidelines, to ensure compliance with data protection principles.
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.
- File type
- 11 page PDF
- File size
- 2.3 MB
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
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