Meeting and correspondence with newly appointed CEO of the Scottish National Investment Bank, Al Denholm: FOI release

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

Information requested

Could you tell me if the First Minister has had any meetings with the newly appointed CEO of the Scottish National Investment Bank, Al Denholm, since his appointment. Could you also provide copies of any briefing notes the First Minister received in advance of such a meeting.

Could you also provide me with any written correspondence between the newly appointed CEO of the Scottish National Investment Bank and the Scottish Government since his appointment. This could be email, letters, other forms of messaging etc.


The answer to your question is that the First Minister met Al Denholm, the new CEO of the Scottish National Investment Bank on 2 May 2023. This was Mr Denholm’s first day in his new role and he was present at a meeting that had previously been arranged between the First Minister, the Bank’s Chair, Willie Watt, and members of the Bank’s Executive Team.

I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested: the briefing for the meeting between the First Minister and the new CEO (and others) from the Scottish National Investment Bank on 2 May as well as emailing between the Director for International Trade and Investment and the new CEO.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because an exemption under section 38(1(b) (personal information) of FOISA applies to a small amount of that information, being the personal data of a third party, i.e. the names of junior officials and personal details of other persons. Disclosing such would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018. This exemption is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.

Exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank advice and exchange of views) also apply to aspects of some of the information requested. These exemptions apply because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. The exemptions recognise the need for Ministers to have a private space within which to seek advice and views from officials before reaching the settled public position. Disclosing the content of free and frank briefing material on these matters will substantially inhibit such briefings in the future, particularly as such matters were still ongoing at the time and final decisions had yet to be taken or positions agreed.

These exemptions 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 exemptions. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemptions. 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 free and frank advice and views to Ministers in briefings and submissions or in relation to investment propositions. It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers can properly make decisions, potentially provide sound information to Parliament (to which they are accountable) and to understand fully the investments being made. They need full and candid advice from officials to enable them to do so. Disclosure of this type of information could lead to a reduction in the comprehensiveness and frankness of such advice and views in the future, which would not be in the public interest.

About FOI

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First Minister Briefings - 202300357675


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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