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Publication - FOI / EIR Release

Communications with Gillian Thompson (Moi Ali case): FOI release

Published: 30 Aug 2017

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

FOI reference: FOI/17/01730
Date received: 26 July 2017
Date responded: 24 August 2017

Information requested

Information contained in documents, meetings, communications & discussions between the Scottish Government & others, including Gillian Thompson, in relation to the release of material in response to an FOI request which disclosed comments from Gillian Thompson in relation to Moi Ali and allegations Ms Ali was the source of media stories on the JCR role, office & lack of annual reports.

Response

I enclose copies of some of the information you requested, having redacted information that is outwith the scope of this FOI request. While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance some information has been redacted because exemptions under FOISA apply to to some information which has been redacted, namely: section 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views); section 30(c) (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs); and section 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA apply. The reasons why these exemptions apply is explained below.

Reasons for not providing information

An exemption applies.

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information requested, including the names and contact details of officials below the level of the Senior Civil Service. 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 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.

Exemptions apply, subject to the public interest test.

An exemption under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to discuss issues and options with external stakeholders. Disclosing the content of these exchanges with the stakeholder will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, because the stakeholder will be reluctant to provide views fully and frankly if they believe that those views are likely to be made public.

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 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 officials a private space within which to communicate with the stakeholder to discuss issues. Disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, which would not be in the public interest.

An exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) applies to some of the information requested. It is essential for officials to be able to communicate, often in confidence, with external stakeholders on a range of issues, including issues arising out of FOI requests. 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.

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 officials a private space within which to communicate with appropriate external stakeholders. 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.

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-17-01730 email correspondence.pdf

8 page PDF
204.1kB

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:
30 Aug 2017
Communications with Gillian Thompson (Moi Ali case): FOI release