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Publication - FOI / EIR Release

UNESCO designates Forth Bridge as World Heritage Site: FOI release

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

FOI reference: FOI/17/00177
Date received: 19 January 2017
Date responded: 3 July 2017

Information requested

  1. All communications from and to Scottish Government officials, the Reporters and/or the Scottish Ministers in connection with the proposed development (NOD-SLS-001) from the date of issue of the Reporters' report (20 February 2015) until the issue of the decision letter (7 December 2016);

  2. All communications from and to Scottish Government officials, the Scottish Ministers and UNESCO in connection with the decision of UNESCO to designate the Forth Bridge as a World Heritage Site in the period from 20 February 2015 to 5 July 2015; and

  3. All information not within the scope of the above requests which informed or was used in the Scottish Ministers' decision-making process in relation to the proposed development (NOD-SLS-001).

You also advised that Scottish Ministers should exclude from the scope of this request: "the Reporters' report and all documents referred to therein; the Scottish Ministers' letters dated 26 June 2015 and 7 December 2016 referred to above; all documents available on the DPEA website under reference NOD-SLS-001; and the information released to us by the Scottish Ministers by email dated 20 December 20I6 pursuant to the Scottish Information Commissioner's Decision in relation to a prior information request (SIC reference 244/2016)."

Response

Due to the file size of the documents released, copies can be provided on request by emailing ceu@gov.scot, quoting the FOI reference number FOI/17/00177.

Released documents:

  • Documents 1-13 and 31-40: Collection of exchanges in relation to Ministers' decision on the called-in planning application for mineral extraction at Hyndford Quarry, Lanark.

  • Documents 14-30: Collection of exchanges in relation to the decision of UNESCO to designate the Forth Bridge as a World Heritage Site.

Whilst our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance some information has been redacted because exceptions under regulations 10(4)(e) and 10(4)(d) of the EIRs apply as well as Section 38(1)(b) of the FoI Act. The reasons why those exceptions apply are explained below.

REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION

  1. An exception under regulation 10(4)(e) of the EIRs applies to some of the redacted information. This exception has been applied as the information relates to internal legal advice and disclosure would breach legal professional privilege.

    1(ii). This exception 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 exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. 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, this is outweighed by the strong public interest in maintaining the right to confidentiality of communications between legal advisers and clients, to ensure that Ministers and officials are able to receive legal advice in confidence, like any other public or private organisation.

  2. An exception under regulation 10(4)(e) of the EIRs applies to some of the redacted information because it is internal communication between Scottish Government Ministers and/or officials about the proposed Hyndford Quarry development or the decision of UNESCO to designate the Forth Bridge as a World Heritage Site.

    2(i).This exception 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 exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. 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, this is outweighed by the strong public interest in high quality decision-making, leading to thedelivery of an effective, considered final decision. This means that Ministers and officials need a private space within which they can consider all available options and debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications. Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether all of the details of those discussions on decisions, such as those relating to the Hyndford Quarry or designation of the Forth Road Bridge, will be disclosed in the near future.

  3. An exception under regulation 10(4)(d) of the EIRs applies to some of the information you have requested. This exception has been applied as some documentation and exchanges relate to material in the course of completion whose release would inhibit the free and frank exchange of advice and consideration in relation to the development and finalisation of that material.

    3(i). This exception 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 exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate.

    3(ii). However, this is outweighed by the strong public interest in maintaining the right to confidentiality of senior officials in the on-going development of key documentation and towards the delivery of an effective, considered final decision.

  4. An exemption under Section 38(1)(b) of the FoI Act applies to some of the redacted information because it is personal data of a third party and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act 1998. 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.

About FOI

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

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference

Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

Published:
4 Jul 2017
UNESCO designates Forth Bridge as World Heritage Site: FOI release