FOI reference: FOI/17/01369
Date received: 4 July 2017
Date responded: 20 September 2017
You asked for a copy of all correspondence within the Scottish Government between officials, special advisers and Scottish Ministers regarding changes to the previously published draft Policing 2026 strategy, and any correspondence between these groups of people and Police Scotland and/or the SPA regarding changes to the previously published draft Policing 2026 strategy.
I have enclosed copies of some of the information you requested.
|Policing 2026 Strategy - correspondence||Annex A||884KB|
|2026 Consultation Update||Annex B||93KB|
|FM Briefing Paper - 10 Year Strategy||Annex C||85KB|
|Scott Wood Email to SG colleagues||Annex D||40KB|
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 under sections 30(b)(i), 30(b)(ii) and 30(c) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained below.
Reasons for not providing information
An exemption applies, subject to public interest test.
An exemption under section 30(b)(i) and section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) and (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 the free and frank provision of advice and free and frank exchange of views for the purposed of deliberation. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to other officials before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank exchanges between officials, and advice to Ministers on the content of the Policing 2026 Strategy would substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future.
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 discuss issues freely and provide free and frank advice and views to Ministers. Premature 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.
Furthermore, an exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) also applies to some the information requested. It is essential for officials to be able to communicate often in confidence, with external stakeholders on a range of issues, in this case, the development of the Policing 2026 strategy. 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. 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 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 on matters related to the development of poling in Scotland. 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, such as that provided by Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority. 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.
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