FOI reference: FOI/17/01427
Date received: 19 June 2017
Date responded: 3 July 2017
A copy of all background notes and/or briefing/s provided to the Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy with regard to the meeting with East Coast Oil and Gas (EC-OG) in relation to the meeting on Oil and Gas held on 31st March 2017. A copy of any minute and note taken during or subsequent to this meeting.
Please find enclosed a copy of some of the information you requested in Annex B.
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 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to a small amount the information and section 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) applies to some the information requested. The reasons why that exemption(s) applies are explained in the Annex A to this letter.
Reasons for not providing information
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to a small amount of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, ie this relates to the names and contact numbers of junior Scottish Government officials, 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.
An exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) applies to some 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 ongoing support and engagement with the oil and gas sector and supply chain. Disclosing some information about these meetings, 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 participate in meetings and provide their views fully and frankly if they believe that their views are likely to be made public, particularly while these discussions relate to matters regarding the company's operational or corporate activities. 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 meet with appropriate external stakeholders as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's position on support for the oil and gas sector, until the Government as a whole can adopt a policy that is sound and likely to be effective. This private space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good policy decisions can be taken based on fully informed advice and evidence, such as that provided by key stakeholders in the oil and gas sector, such as East Coast Oil and Gas. 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 policy 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