FOI reference: FOI/17/00426
Date received: 21 February 2017
Date responded: 4 July 2017
You asked for Correspondence between Ms Robison or member of her Department and
a) the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh
b) the Royal College of Physicians and surgeons of Glasgow
c) the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland and her representatives, relating to the reconfiguration of the cleft surgical service in Scotland.
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 of exemptions under sections of FOISA applies to that information:
- s.29 (1)(a) (formulation of policy)
- s.30 (b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice)
- s.30 (b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation)
- s.30 (c) (otherwise prejudice effective conduct of public affairs)
- s.38 (1)(b) (personal information)
The reasons why these exemptions apply is explained in the Annex to this letter.
Reasons for not providing information
An exemption applies
An exemption under section 29(1)(a) of FOISA (formulation or development of government policy) applies to some of the information requested because it relates to the formulation of the Scottish Government's policy on Cleft Surgical Services in Scotland.
An exemption under section 30(b)(i) & (ii) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to the Ministers before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on Cleft Surgical Services in Scotland will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because these discussions relate to a sensitive or controversial issue such as consolidating Cleft Surgical Services in Scotland.
An exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) applies to some of the information requested. It is essential for Ministers to be able to communicate often in confidence, with external stakeholders on a range of issues, including Cleft Surgical Services in Scotland. Disclosing the content of these communications particularly without the consent of the stakeholder, is likely to undermine their trust in the Scottish Government and will substantially inhibit communications on this type of issue in the future. These stakeholders will be reluctant to provide their views fully and frankly if they believe that their views are likely to be made public, particularly while these discussions relate to a sensitive or controversial issue such as Cleft Surgical Services in Scotland. This would significantly harm the Government's ability to carry out many aspects of its work, and could adversely affect its ability to gather all of the evidence it needs to make fully informed decisions.
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. 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 high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development of policies and decisions. This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications. Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions on Cleft Surgical Services in Scotland will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government's view on that policy while it is still under discussion and development.
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, for example names and contact details of individuals, 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.
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 Andrew's House