Meetings of the Transport Minister in August 2022: FOI review

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

Information requested

All internal and external correspondence within and sent or received by the Scottish Government including attached documents, meeting handouts, memos, briefings to ministers, attendee lists, location of meeting, notes, minutes, or OneNote memos, linked to the following meetings:

  1. Jenny Gilruth's meeting with CMAL on August 2, 2022
  2. Jenny Gilruth's meeting with stakeholders re: MV Hebrides
  3. Jenny Gilruth's meeting RE: Uig Harbour on August 8, 2022
  4. Jenny Gilruth's meetings with ScotRail on August 8 and August 17, 2022
  5. Jenny Gilruth's meetings with stakeholders RE: Uig Closure on August 25, 2022.


I have now completed my review of our original response and the decisions made by my colleague to withhold certain parts of the information requested, in light of your comments. Following that review, I have concluded that a different decision should be substituted.

I came to this decision by the following:

  • I carried out additional searches and agree that there is no record of a meeting taking place between Minister for Transport - Jenny Gilruth and ScotRail on August 8 2022.
  • The application of exemption under Section 17(1)(Information not held) of FOISA relating to your request regarding the Minister's meeting of 17 August 2022 with ScotRail was applied appropriately. Transport Scotland do not hold the note of that meeting.
  • Regarding the application of Section 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA: redaction of personal information was applied to references to non-senior officials, as well as to direct telephone numbers. However, I have noted that there are a couple of inconsistencies in those redactions. Firstly: The Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, was in attendance at the meeting with CMAL on the 2nd of August 2022 and he was noted as an attendee on page 1 of the briefing paper released to you, but this was redacted - unnecessary in my view and now restored in the attached document. Secondly, a reference to the attendance of Mr Brian Fulton – Head of Business Support at CMAL, was redacted in the note of the meeting with CMAL on 2nd August, but not in the briefing paper. I feel that redaction was also unnecessary, and the reference has also been restored.
  • I view that the application of s38(1)(personal Information) of FOISA in the documents sent in the original response to you, where a redaction pertains to personal information to be clear, so I have not marked-up these instances in the attached document.
  • Some information was withheld under Section 29 (1a) (formulation of government policy) of FOISA: I have concluded that the use of this exemption in those cases was not appropriate. After assessing the information to which this exemption was applied, I am now substituting with section 30 (b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice) of FOISA. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice. The exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to Ministers before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on matters pertaining to investment choices in the ferries networks could substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because the discussions are still ongoing, and some decisions have not been taken. 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. 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 a greater public interest in allowing a private space within which officials can provide full and frank advice to Ministers, as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s policy position on the funding of the CHFS and NIFS ferry networks, until the Government as a whole can adopt a position that is sound and likely to be effective. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, based on the best available advice, 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 decision-making process, which would not be in the public interest.
  • I have marked up in the enclosed document, where section 30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice) of FOISA has been applied to some of the information. Two exceptions to this are: i) the redaction of a reference to "THC" (The Highland Council) in Annex C of the Briefing for the briefing paper released to you concerning Minister's meeting with the Uig project partners and elected officials on 8 August 2022; and ii) the redaction of a bullet point statement within Annex D of the briefing paper released to you concerning Minister's meeting with the Uig project partners and elected officials on 25 August 2022. "It should be noted that communities are not cut off, there are localised impacts due to the closure with disruption to normal service patterns, but the service continuity measures allow for the continuation of good and services to the island communities." I do not feel there was sufficient grounds for that redaction and these bullets have been restored in the attached document.
  • Further to the above points: I wish to make it clear that the majority of the sections marked as redactions in the documents provided in the original response to you were actually pertaining to information that was out of the scope of your request. These sections should not have been marked as redacted, rather they should simply not have been included in the original response to you. I have removed reference to them in the attached document and apologise for any confusion caused by this issue.

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FOI - 202300342767 - Information release


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Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
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