(1) All the information in all the lists of interests (including spouse, partner and family interests) provided by each minister currently serving in the Scottish Government upon their appointment, including the information provided by the First Minister;
(2) Any confirmation from ministers, at the time of their appointment, as to whether they are aware of any close acquaintances or advisers who have a contractual relationship with the Government or are involved in policy development, as described in Section 11.4 of the Scottish Ministerial Code;
(3) All information in all records of action taken by ministers in agreement with the Permanent Secretary on the handling of interests, and any subsequent changes, as set out in Section 11.5 of the Scottish Ministerial Code.
A response to each part of your request is provided below:
(1) The interests of each Minister currently serving in the Scottish Government as declared by them following their appointment this Parliamentary session are provided at Annex A.
(2) Any declarations of interests made by currently serving Ministers concerning relationships with the Government of close acquaintances or advisers are detailed in the information provided at Annex A (see heading 9).
(3) I attach at Annex B a list of actions taken by currently serving Ministers to ensure that no conflict arises, or could reasonably be perceived to arise, between their public duties and their private interests in this Parliamentary session.
The following exemptions have been applied under each part of your request:
(1) and (2) An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to a small amount of the information requested because it is the personal data of a third party. You will see, for example, that we have redacted some names and personal financial information from the information provided at Annex A as 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 exemption 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 exemption.
(3) 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 an exemption under section 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice or exchange of views) applies to that information. These exemptions apply because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. The exemptions recognise the need for Ministers to have a private space within which to seek advice and views from officials before reaching a settled position on the action they wish to take to avoid a potential conflict of interest between their public duties and their private interests in line with the Scottish Ministerial Code. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on how Ministers might wish to act to avoid a conflict of interest will substantially inhibit such advice in the future, particularly because these discussions often relate to information which is sensitive and/or personal in nature.
These exemptions 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 exemptions. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemptions. We 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 greater public interest in allowing a private space within which officials can provide free and frank advice and views to Minister in relation to their obligations under the Scottish Ministerial Code to avoid a conflict of interest between their public duties and private interests. It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers can properly declare their interests and take action to avoid a conflict of interest or a perception of one. They need full and candid advice from officials to enable them to do so. Premature disclosure of this type of information could lead to a reduction in the comprehensiveness and frankness of such advice and views in the future, which would not be in the public interest.
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.
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Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
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