“1. All correspondence from members of the public/organisations sent to the Scottish Government or/and Mairi McAllan about HPMAs between March 2023 and the date of this FOI.
2. How much money has the government spent so far on the HPMAs policy and a breakdown of these costs.”
As the information you have requested is ‘environmental information’ for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.
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, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.
Response to your request
All correspondence from members of the public/organisations sent to the Scottish Government or/and Mairi McAllan about Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) between March 2023 and the date of this FOI.
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, under the exception at regulation 10(4)(b) of the EIRs a public authority may refuse a request for information if it is ‘manifestly unreasonable’. The Scottish Information Commissioner’s guidance on the regulation 10(4)(b) exception at: http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/Law/EIRs/EIRsExceptions.aspx says that there may “be instances where it is appropriate for the Commissioner to consider the proportionality of the burden on the public authority in terms of the costs and resources involved in dealing with a request when considering the application of this exception”.
In this case, you have asked for “all” correspondence from members of the public/organisations sent to the Scottish Government or/and Mairi McAllan about HPMAs within a short, specified time period. You may be aware that the Scottish Government have recently closed a consultation on the topic you are interested in: Scottish Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) - Scottish Government - Citizen Space (consult.gov.scot). The consultation ran from 12 December 22 to 17 April 23 and due to the timeframe of your request, it covers part of the consultation period. The consultation received significant attention in parliament, from the media and from the wider public so this brings thousands of items of correspondence into the scope of the request you have made.
For instance, the search of one mailbox alone identified around 1,600 potential items. We need to sift this information to determine which of these items are within scope and having identified the specific information relevant to your request, we would then have to establish if any exceptions under the EIRs apply to any of the information and redact this information as appropriate before we release a response to you.
Even given the 20 day extension allowed under the EIRs, it would not be possible to complete the substantial volume of work still required to identify the specific information relevant to your request and to apply redactions to information which exceptions apply. For these reasons, we consider that your request is manifestly unreasonable and so we are refusing it under regulation 10(4)(b).
As the exception is conditional we have applied the ‘public interest test’. This means we have, in all the circumstances of this case, considered if the public interest in disclosing information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. While we recognise that there is public interest in correspondence we hold from members of the public/organisations sent to the Scottish Government or/and Mairi McAllan about Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs), this is outweighed by the public interest in ensuring the efficient and effective use of public resources by not incurring excessive costs when complying with information requests.
As is specified in the information provided within the “Citizen Space” web link above, our commitment made is that “following the closing date, all responses will be analysed and considered along with any other available evidence to help us. Responses will be published where we have been given permission to do so. An analysis report will also be made available.”
However, because of the amount of responses received in response to the consultation, this process is taking longer than usual, and in terms of timelines it is not possible to be specific at this early stage. You may however wish to consider reducing the scope of your request in order to make it manageable. We have noted that one of the reasons that there is so much information to consider, is due to the large volume of consultation responses we received. If you wish to exclude these consultation responses from your request, in light of the fact that, where possible, they will be published in due course, this could help to make your request more manageable. Reducing the time period of your request, while also excluding these consultation responses would also help to make your request more manageable. You may also find it helpful to look at the Scottish Information Commissioner’s ‘Tips for requesting information under FOI and the EIRs’ on his website at:
How much money has the government spent so far on the HPMAs policy and a breakdown of these costs.
I include a copy of all of the information you requested in the table below – this is the total overall cost to date of the consultation process:
Value (including VAT)
Publication Cost of Consultation Documents
Newspaper notice of Environmental Report publication
The Joint Nature Conservation Committee and Nature Scot were also involved in advising during the consultation process, however there is no business requirement for officials to allocate their time spent working on tasks for Marine Scotland between different tasks they perform for us, for example time spent on tasks relating to the consultation, or their work more generally. Given we do not hold details of the time spent by individuals undertaking these tasks, we are unable to provide details of the total costs that you have specified.
A contract is now in place for the analysis of the consultation responses. The contract commenced on 17 April 2023 and be completed no later than 5 July 2023 unless the contract is terminated in accordance with the Terms and Conditions. The contract value shall be £35,100.00 (exclusive of VAT). This is based upon 2569 substantive responses and 1846 campaign responses. Invoices shall be submitted within 10 days of the goods and/or services being provided, and payment shall be made within 30 days of a valid invoice being received.
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.
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
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