FOI reference: FOI/17/01440
Date received: 20 June 2017
Date responded: 18 July 2017
The minutes from the meeting held between Humza Yousaf MSP and Tim OToole on 28 March 2017. All correspondence before and after this meeting relating to the meeting.
The meeting you referred to took place at the Parliament between Mr Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport and the Islands, and Tim O'Toole, Chief Executive of First Group, and sitting in was a Transport Scotland official, Allan Crawford.
There was no agenda as it was an introductory meeting and no formal minutes were taken during or after the meeting.
I enclose a copy of the ministerial submission prepared ahead of the meeting for the Minister. Some information has been redacted and the reasons are explained below.
Reasons for not providing information
An exemption under section 33(1)(b) of FOISA (commercial interests). This exemption applies because disclosure of this particular information would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the commercial interests of First Group.
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 help account for expenditure of public money. However, there is greater public interest in protecting the commercial interests of companies.
Personal hand written notes from the supporting official were taken however these have not been included as they are deemed to be exempt from FOI under section 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs). It is essential for Ministers to be able to meet often in confidence, with external stakeholders on a range of issues, including transport policy. Disclosing the 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 if they believe that their views are likely to be made public, particularly while these discussions are still ongoing and decisions have not been taken. 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 policies.
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 transport policy, until the Government as a whole can adopt a policy decision that is sound and likely to be effective. 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 bus operators. 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 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