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Publication - FOI / EIR Release

Briefings for Alasdair Allan's meetings in Poland: FOI release

Published: 15 Aug 2017

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

FOI reference: FOI/17/01623
Date received: 12 July 2017
Date responded: 15 August 2017

Information requested

All briefings prepared for Alasdair Allan for meetings in Poland between 19 March 2017 and 21 March 2017 as well as all minutes, actions points or notes taken following the individual meetings.

Response

I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested at Annex B, C, D, E and F of this letter as well as in the file attached separately.

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)(ii) (free and frank provision of advice), 32(1)(a)(i) (relations between the UK and any other state) and 33(1)(b) (commercial intersts) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why those exemptions apply are explained below.

Reasons for not providing information

Exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice), 32(1)(a)(i) (international relations) and 33(1)(b) (commercial interests) of FOISA apply to the information you have requested.

An exemption under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice. This 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.

An exemption under section 32(1)(a)(i) of FOISA (international relations) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially relations between the United Kingdom and other European Governments and the European Union. The effective conduct of international relations depends upon maintaining trust and confidence between the UK Government and other States. There is a vital public interest in allowing Scottish Ministers and officials a private space within which to engage in full and frank discussions with their counterparts in other States/international organisations. Such discussion makes for better quality and better informed policies and decisions on issues with an international dimension and aids the protection and promotion of UK interests abroad. Inappropriate disclosure is likely to damage other States' confidence and trust in the UK and thus undermine future discussions and international relations more generally.

Both 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 to communicate with appropriate external stakeholders as part of the process of maintaining international relations after the EU Referendum. This private space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good decisions can be taken. Disclosure is also 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 addition, an exemption under section 33(1)(b) (commercial interests) of FOISA applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure of this particular information would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the commercial interests of the companies involved and prejudice their ability to compete on the market.

This exemption is subject to the 'public interest test' as well. 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 and transparent government. However, there is a greater public interest in protecting the commercial interests of the companies involved, to ensure that we are always able to obtain the best value for public money.

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

FoI-17-01623 - related documents.pdf

72 page PDF
1.1MB

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:
15 Aug 2017
Briefings for Alasdair Allan's meetings in Poland: FOI release