FOI reference: FOI/17/02166
Date received: 21 September 2017
Date responded: 20 October 2017
A breakdown of all communications and correspondence between the First Minister and the Spanish Government since November 2014.
All minutes and notes taken of any telephone communications between the First Minister and the Spanish Government since November 2014.
A breakdown of all communications and correspondence between the Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs and the Spanish Government since May 2016.
All minutes and notes taken of any telephone communications between the Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs and the Spanish Government since May 2016.
In the file attached (Annex A), you will find a copy of the information you asked for at point 1 of your request.
The Scottish Government does not hold any data falling within the scope of points 2 and 3 of your request.
Point 4 above. While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide the information you have requested because exemptions under section 32(1)(a)(i) (relations between the UK and any other state) and 30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice) of FOISA apply to that information. The reason why these exemptions apply are explained below.
Reasons for not providing information
Exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice) and 32(1)(a)(i) (international relations) 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. 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.
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