Further to my letter of 02 August 2023, I have now completed my review of our response to your original request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) for "...All correspondence received by Ministers and officials, and responses issued, related to and about the Proposed Scottish Employment Injuries Advisory Council Bill, from 1 January 2023 to 31 May 2023".
I have been asked to look at your request afresh, to decide whether the original response in relation to the application of Section 29(1)(d) (the Operation of any Ministerial Private Office) and Section 30(b)(i) (the Free and Frank Provision of Advice) 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 concluded that the original decision should be confirmed, with modifications.
Your review request challenged the application of the exemptions made under Section 29(1)(d) (the Operation of any Ministerial Private Office) and Section 30(b)(i) (the Free and Frank Provision of Advice) in our previous response to your original request, on the grounds of public interest and transparency.
We have considered the information released as part of your previous request. Exemptions made under Section 29(1)(d) (the Operation of any Ministerial Private Office) as part of Extract 1 should have been released to you and this is now included as part of this response. This information details Ministerial preferences for the previous Minister and was not originally included as part of our response.
In relation to the application of Section 30(b)(i) (the Free and Frank Provision of Advice), this has been upheld because it relates to communications between the previous Minister and officials.
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 regarding the Scottish Employment Injuries Advisory Council Bill as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, this exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank exchange of views.
This recognises the need for officials to have a private space in which to conduct frank discussion. This private and safe thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered based on the best available advice so that good 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.
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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