Responding to questions about the use of the discredited statistic that Scotland has 25% of Europe’s offshore wind potential, multiple Scottish Government ministers and FOI responses have described that statistic as “outdated”. A detailed report published by These Islands on 9th November 2022 demonstrated that the 25% statistic was *never* justifiable.
On 9th December 2022, the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir Robert Chote, wrote to Alex Cole- Hamilton MSP, and endorsed the conclusion of the These Islands report. Chote said the 25% statistic was “poorly constructed”.
In light of this, please provide:
- Any evidence held by the Scottish Government which refutes the conclusion of These Islands and the UK Statistics Authority that the 25% statistic was *never* justifiable.
- If the Scottish Government holds no such evidence, an explanation for why it has continued to describe the statistic as “outdated” when a truthful description would be “incorrect”.
- The Scottish Government’s policy on how the discredited 25% statistic will, in future, be characterised. In other words: will the Scottish Government accept the advice of the UK Statistics Authority, and admit (in future) that the 25% statistic was incorrect all along?
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 these 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.
I have addressed each of your points raised separately for ease below:
- You have asked for any evidence held by the Scottish Government which refutes the conclusion of the reports from These Islands and the UK Statistics Authority, and, having completed a search for any recorded information, I can confirm that no information is held in relation to this element of your request. Under the terms of the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs (information not held), the Scottish Government is not required to provide information which it does not have. The Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested because it was either not created or it was routinely destroyed, in accordance with our standard records management practice.
- The figure has since been described as 'outdated' as this is correct.
- Your third point questions the Scottish Government’s policy position on how the 25% statistic will be characterised in future. The Scottish Government has accepted that the statistic needs revising. In response to the issues raised by the UK Statistics Authority, the Scottish Government has engaged directly with the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) setting out the steps that have been taken to ensure the statistic is not used further, and provided an update on the analytical work that is underway to produce a replacement statistic, which will be published in due course.
These exceptions 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 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 the information you have requested, clearly we cannot provide information which we do not hold.
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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