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Publication - FOI / EIR Release

Ministerial briefing for Mental Health meeting: FOI release

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

FOI reference: FOI/17/01347
Date received: 19 June 2017
Date responded: 28 July 2017

Information requested

  • a copy of all background notes and/or briefing/s provided to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport with regard to the meeting with Calum Campbell of NHS Lanarkshire in relation to the meeting on Mental Health held on 7th March 2017;

  • a copy of any minute and note taken during or subsequent to this meeting.

Response

I have attached a copy of some of the information you requested.
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 exemptions section 30(b)(i) (free and frank exchange of advice) and 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why those exemptions apply are explained below.

Reasons For Not Providing Information

Exemptions apply, subject to the public interest test.

An exemption under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) and section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views) applies to some of the information requested. These exemptions apply because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially both the free and frank provision of advice and the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. The section 30(b)(i) exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to Ministers before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because these discussions relate to sensitive NHS service redesign proposals.

The section 30(b)(ii) exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to discuss issues and options with external stakeholders before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of these discussions with senior NHS Board contacts on matters relating to service design and provision will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, because these stakeholders will be reluctant to provide their views fully and frankly if they believe that those views are likely to be made public; particularly where these discussions relate to a sensitive or controversial issue such as how local services are planned and delivered.

Both these exemptions are subject to the 'public interest test'. In the case of the section 30(b)(i) exemption applied, 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 allowing a private space within which officials can provide full and frank advice to Ministers, as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's position. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, based on the best available advice, so that good decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between Ministers and officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, which would not be in the public interest.

In the case of the section 30(b)(ii) exemption applied, 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 allowing Ministers and officials a private space within which to communicate with appropriate external stakeholders as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's position. This private space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good decisions can be taken based on fully informed advice and evidence. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between the Scottish Government and these stakeholders, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, which would not be in the public interest.

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 Sep 2017
Ministerial briefing for Mental Health meeting: FOI release