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Publication - FOI / EIR Release

Inspection of Argyll and Bute Councils' Educational Services: FOI release

Published: 28 Jul 2017

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

FOI reference: FOI/17/01391
Date received: 19 June 2017
Date responded: 27 July 2017

Information requested

  1. All correspondence made and received in relation to the inspection of the educational functions of Argyll and Bute Council.

  2. All correspondence made and received in relation to the timing of publication of the report on the inspection of the educational functions of Argyll and Bute Council.

Response

I enclose some of the information you have requested.

However, while our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information requested because exemptions under sections 25(1), information already accessible; 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii), free and frank advice and exchange of views; section 36(1), legal advice; and section 38(1)(b), personal information of FOISA applies to some of the information requested.

The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in the Annex to this letter as well as in the enclosed schedule.

  • Due to the file size of the documents referred to in the schedule (attached), copies can be provided on request by emailing ceu@gov.scot, quoting the FOI reference number FOI/17/01391.

Reasons for not providing information

Section 25(1) - information already accessible

An exemption under section 25(1) of FOISA applies to some of the information requested because we published the final report on 21 March 2017. We consider that it is reasonable to withhold the draft information as the report has now been published.

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 draft 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. While we recognise that there is some public interest in the draft findings within the report, this has now been met by our final publication.

Sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) - free and frank advice and exchange of views

Exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank advice and exchange of views) apply 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 exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. The exemptions recognise the need for Ministers and officials to have a private space within which to discuss sensitive issues arising from an special inspection. Disclosing the content of the free and frank discussions on this inspection of Argyll and Bute Council will be likely to substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, particularly because these discussions involved sensitive issues.

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 Ministers and officials a private space within which to explore and refine the Government's position on appropriate action following an inspection. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, 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 decision making process, which would not be in the public interest.

Section 36(1) - legal advice

An exemption under section 36(1) of FOISA (confidentiality in legal proceedings) applies to some of the information requested because it is legal advice and disclosure would breach legal professional privilege.

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 some public interest in release as part of open and transparent 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.

Section 38(1)(b) - personal information

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some information which has been redacted from some of the enclosed documents. This exemption applies because the information 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 is because releasing this information could lead to the identification of staff members and members of the public in relation to the inspection of Argyll and Bute Council.

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:
28 Jul 2017
Inspection of Argyll and Bute Councils' Educational Services: FOI release