FOI reference: FOI/17/01905
Date received: 11 August 2017
Date responded: 15 September 2017
'All minutes and documents relating to a meeting that the First Minister had with Mr Ben Thomson from Creative Scotland on the first of February, earlier this year.'
'The minutes and documents in relation to this with any ministers or representatives of the Catholic Church or Catholic Education service, or any meetings that Nicola Sturgeon has had with Gordon MacRae of the humanist society or John Swinney. (Meetings from February).'
I enclose a copy of most of the information you requested. Some of the information you have requested is available from the Scottish Parliament's website at: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/103135.aspx#anna2
Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.
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 an exemption under section 30(b)(ii) (the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why this exemption applies are explained in the Annex to this letter.
Reasons for not providing information
Exemptions apply, subject to the public interest test.
An exemption under section s.30(b)(ii) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. This exemption relates to the disclosure of information where 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 and Ministers to have a private space within which to discuss issues and options with external stakeholders before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of these discussions will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, because these discussions relate to a sensitive or controversial issue. This exemption is subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, 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 communicate with appropriate external stakeholders as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's position on the UK's decision to leave the EU and the constitutional implications. This also applies in respect of the issue of religious observance.
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 Mr Thomson. Disclosure at this time is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between the Scottish Government and 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