All documents, emails, correspondence which were produced between the dates of the 1st of January 2022 to 27th January 2023 relating to the future use of Asulam, marketed as Asulox, for the control of bracken, specifically from 2022 onwards.
In addition, you also asked for, all documents, emails, correspondence which were produced between the dates of the 1st of January 2022 to 27th January 2023 relating to the future eligibility of AECS or any other government financial support for the control of bracken, specifically from 2022 onwards.
Correspondence can include emails, WhatsApp messages and letters. As you did not specify whether documents and communications were to include both internal and/or external our database search included all.
As the information you have requested is ‘environmental information’ for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), Scottish Government 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 a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.
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, the policy which covers future use of Asulox and the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) are held by two different policy teams, both of which are significant aspects of the ministerial portfolio and are cross-cutting, not only with one another, but with other policy areas within the agricultural sector, and out with, including third party organisations and UK Government.
Our search for all internal and external correspondence and documents relating to the ‘Future use of Asulox’ which were produced between the dates of the 1st of January 2022 to 27th January 2023 has returned a large volume of documents. Careful consideration has been given to the organisation and the resources that could be allocated to meet the statutory obligations under EIRs and whilst we endeavour to meet the request of the EIR, in this case, the proportionality of the burden on the public authority in terms of the costs and resources involved in dealing with the request exceed the limits. 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 may be some public interest in information about ‘Future use of Asulam/Asulox’, ‘Bracken Control’, and ‘AECS future funding and eligible options’ 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.
You may however wish to consider reducing the scope of your request to make it manageable, as while you asked for future use of Asulox, marketed as Asulam, this remains broad and can cover a wide range of subject matters relating to the ask for example, funding and payments, research, crops, biodiversity, machinery, food production, pesticides, Health and Safety and Emergency Applications which may not be what you are looking for.
The future use of Asulox can also have wider direct and in-direct relationship with broader government bodies and therefore you may wish to request this information from UK Government.
Our search returned documents that related to the chemical use UK wide whereas you may only require those relating to the use of Asulox in Scotland. Therefore, you may wish to submit a EIR, focussing the request on one policy subject such as 'Future use of Asulox’, specifying internal and/or external correspondence and documents relating to Emergency Application with Scotland. Separately you could submit an EIR that is AECS specific.
You may also find it helpful to look at the Scottish Information Commissioner’s ‘Tips for requesting information under FOI (Freedom of Information) and the EIRs’ on his website at: http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/YourRights/Tipsforrequesters.aspx.
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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